By Graham Hardcastle
Yorkshire are dipping their toes into the field of wedding planning as they bid to convince Keshav Maharaj to return to Emerald Headingley as the club’s overseas player next season.
The South African Test left-arm spinner has enjoyed a sensational five-game stint in the Specsavers County Championship, taking 38 wickets and adding two fifties.
He has contributed to three wins and, amazingly, is their leading Championship wicket-taker in 2019.
Maharaj left to resume international duty after Thursday’s defeat against Somerset at Taunton, with the Proteas starting a Test series in India in early October.
International commitments next summer is one reason why Yorkshire are unsure over Maharaj’s availability in 2020, as is the fact he is getting married in May at home in South Africa.
But the White Rose have a plan.
“We’re trying to convince him to have a Yorkshire wedding!” said bowling coach Rich Pyrah.
Captain Steve Patterson showed his commitment to the Yorkshire cause when he revealed: “I’ve said to Kesh, ‘I’ll happily contribute towards your wedding if you want to have it over here’. But I think it’s already planned and organised.”
All tongue in cheek, of course, but Yorkshire are deadly serious regarding their admiration for a 29-year-old who took 20 wickets in his two matches against Somerset – a win and a defeat.
“I would love to see him come back,” said Patterson.
“He’s a fantastic cricketer and knows what we think about him. I’d like to think it’s not the last time he wears a Yorkshire shirt.”
Pyrah said: “It’s not just his performances, it’s the way he’s been around the dressing room and how he’s spoken to our young spinners. He’s an outstanding bloke.
“His knowledge of spin bowling is brilliant, so we’ve used him a lot.
“Young James Logan has been injured, but we got him up to Scarborough (last month) for a few days just to be around Kesh.
“Things like that are gold dust for a young spinner.
“We had Jack Shutt with us at Taunton. Instead of him going and playing a couple of days of second-team cricket, it’s just as valuable for him to spend time around Kesh.
“Kesh bowls a lot in a morning, so for Shutty to be around him and talk spin bowling is vital for his development.”
Unfortunately, Yorkshire’s defeat at the Cooper Associates County Ground in Taunton leaves them out of the title race with two rounds remaining.
They are in a three-way battle for third place, a position which they currently hold, with Hampshire and Kent, the latter who visit Emerald Headingley on Monday (10.30am).
Yorkshire have drafted in New Zealand left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel as Maharaj’s replacement.
Patel, 30, has played seven Tests, taking 22 wickets, and has a link to Patterson.
Both men have played club cricket for the Suburbs New Lynn club in Auckland, with Patterson spending a winter there in 2005/06.
New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill played with Patterson then, and he was the go-between in the deal to bring Patel to Headingley.
Patterson added: “When we knew Kesh was unavailable, it was a case of, ‘Can we find someone who can come in and perform like Kesh has done?’
“We looked at our different options, and Ajaz was the one. He comes highly rated, and Martin was one of the guys who has spoken very highly of him to me.
“From what I gather, he spins the ball like Kesh. He’s an attacking spinner who looks to take wickets, which is what we need.”