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This week has brought us much closer together, says Proteas’ Keshav Maharaj

The Proteas celebrate a wicket furing their ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match against West Indies earlier this week. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP

The Proteas celebrate a wicket furing their ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match against West Indies earlier this week. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP

Published Oct 29, 2021

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Dubai – If any good has come from a wretched week for everyone involved in South African cricket, it has to be the fact that the Proteas team have pulled together like never before.

For all the talk of disunity in the camp, and splits along belief systems, they are certainly projecting a united front that’s ready to tackle all comers head on, starting with Sri Lanka in Sharjah on Saturday.

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They certainly don’t need any more directives, at least according to Keshav Maharaj, the team’s most senior player bar captain Temba Bavuma, to light the fire in the belly.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Five Proteas who need to shine against Sri Lanka

“It's obviously been a tough week, but I think the boys are mature enough and adult enough to sort of adapt to the situation. I think the spirits were really high at training,” Maharaj told reporters.

“There's that buzz and that drive that's back into the team after quite a long two days. But yeah, I think the boys are in good stead, and our focus is back on cricket for now.

“I think we drew a lot of inspiration from the way we've reacted in the past to various situations thrown at us, and I think this has just made us bond and gel even stronger. You'll probably see a lot more energy than you have seen in these last two games, which it's hard to believe in terms of topping up, especially the way we started. I think it has brought us together.”

ALSO READ: Cricket South Africa must take the blame for the Quinton de Kock saga

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Everything that has transpired over the past week has certainly been a long time in the making. True, it required Quinton de Kock not to take the knee to set it in motion, but what has emerged so messily in the past few days, like all that has gone before in recent times, was inevitable.

At least this way, cricket's enduring hold has ensured that the issues of taking the knee were aired. Cricket has once more entered public consciousness and perhaps now it will be embedded deeply enough for everyone to understand its significance for all the people of South Africa.

“We've had endless chats about this as a team and we respect everyone's decisions and views and opinions. We know everyone supports one another, and I think that's the way forward in this team. I think respect is one of our pillars, and I think that's where we all stand, too.

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ALSO READ: WATCH: Proteas welcome back repentant Quinton de Kock with ’open arms’

“We speak about our pillars as a team and our values, and I think we've spoken at length with that, and we know we respect everyone's beliefs. No one is a racist within our team. We all support one another and respect everyone's cultural, religious and spiritual differences.”

But back to the inevitable question, will De Kock line-up on Saturday to face the Sri Lankans?

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“It's been a tough week for him, but he's a very mature character despite what people may think. Quinny is Quinny, and we love having him in the team. He's in a good space,” Maharaj explained.

ALSO READ: How it happened: A timeline of Quinton de Kock’s taking the knee controversy

“Obviously that's down to the selectors in terms of whether he starts or not tomorrow, but I know that if he does get the opportunity, he'll definitely slot back into the team,” Maharaj said.

“A person of his calibre, we know what Quinny can do with the bat, and he puts match-winning knocks on. I'm sure he will slot straight back into the opening role.”

It seems likely that Reeza Hendricks, who struck the ball sweetly against the West Indies after replacing De Kock, will keep his place in the line-up at the top of the order, with Heinrich Klaasen likely missing out against Mickey Arthur's Sri Lanka.

ALSO READ: Cricket South Africa admit ’regret’ in timing of directive in Quinton de Kock saga

Likely Proteas team to face Sri Lanka

Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma (capt), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi.

Start: 12pm (SA time), TV: SuperSport, Radio: SABC Radio 2000

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