Yorkshire have announced the signing of Keshav Maharaj, the South African left-arm spinner, for the first two games of their County Championship season, in a move that appears to hint that Adil Rashid is unlikely to play red-ball cricket for the club next year.
Maharaj, who is part of South Africa’s Test squad to play England in their upcoming four-match series, starred in his time at Headingley in 2019, taking 38 wickets at 18.92 apiece in his five Championship games for the club, as well as hitting a pair of lower-order fifties.
He will be available for Yorkshire’s Championship opener against Gloucestershire at Headingley, as well as their fixture away at champions Essex.
The move appears to suggest that Rashid is unlikely to sign a multi-format deal with the club for next season, which would effectively rule him out of England’s Test tour to Sri Lanka in the spring.
Rashid signed a contract to play in all forms of the game for Yorkshire ahead of the 2019 season, having been on a white-ball contract the previous year, but did not play a single Championship game as he continued to manage his chronic shoulder injury either side of the World Cup.
After the controversy surrounding Rashid’s shock recall for the Test series against India in 2018, England changed their selection policy to ensure players are only eligible to play international cricket in the formats they are contracted for in the domestic game. Yorkshire are highly unlikely to play two spinners in April, and as such the signing of Maharaj suggests that Rashid will not be available in red-ball cricket, either for club or country.
In September, Rashid told the Guardian: “I would love to [get another Test deal] but I don’t know what their vision is for me. I thought I did OK in the games I played but we got smashed by West Indies in the first Test in January and I haven’t played since.
“If I don’t get one, I need to decide what to do next. Is it focusing on white-ball cricket again? With the injury, I do need to think about my longevity. Whatever happens, I’ll always be thankful to Ed Smith and Joe Root and the coaches for giving me the chance.”
Rashid, who turns 32 next year, is set for a relatively light workload this winter as he looks to ensure he is fit for next year’s T20 World Cup. He has been named in England’s ODI and T20I squad to play in South Africa, but was not picked up in the Pakistan Super League draft and did not enter the IPL auction, meaning he is unlikely to have any cricket between that tour and the start of the Vitality Blast. While he does not have a contract of any kind with Yorkshire for next season as things stand, he is likely to sign a deal with the county.
Keshav Maharaj played five Championship games for Yorkshire in 2019 Getty Images
“Our biggest challenge at the minute with our own spinners is the balance of the team,” said Yorkshire’s director of cricket, Martyn Moxon. “Obviously Kesh [Maharaj] coming in, batting at No. 8 and scoring useful runs at times helps us with the balance of the side. That’s our challenge going forward, looking at how we manage that with our own spinners.
“With next season in mind, we’ve got a short-term plan with regards to spin, but we need to keep the long-term in mind too and develop our own spinners as much as we can.”
Maharaj is expected to return to South Africa after the game against Essex, and Moxon confirmed that Yorkshire have lined up another overseas player for the rest of the season, and “just need the contract to be signed”.
Maharaj said: “I had a good relationship with the players and staff and really enjoyed my time this year. I’m very grateful to be given the opportunity to come back and play for Yorkshire again.
“I surprised myself with the numbers that I put up with ball and bat so I’m just happy to have been able to contribute in the way I did. Hopefully in the two games that I have signed for I can make a similar impact and help start the season well.”