Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
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South Africa are ready to welcome Quinton de Kock back into their starting XI after he sat out the match against West Indies when he refused to take a knee, and believe they are closer than ever. Keshav Maharaj said the team is "in a good space," and has drawn inspiration from the way they responded to a last-minute directive from CSA to collectively take a knee.
"No-one is a racist within our team. We all support one another and respect everyone's cultural, religious and spiritual differences," Maharaj said. "I am a very religious person so I know that you have got to be accepting of a lot of things and we respect that. We all in the team are in a good space. It's been a tough week but it's drawn us together and we've drawn some strength and inspiration from this."
While Maharaj could not answer whether de Kock will definitely be in the team to play Sri Lanka, he gave a strong indication that South Africa would not risk leaving their match-winning opener out. "That's down to the selectors in terms of whether he starts but if he does get the opportunity he will definitely slot straight back into the team," Maharaj said. "We know what Quinny can do with the bat, he puts match-winning knocks out. We saw that in Sri Lanka where he was Player of the Series. If he does get the opportunity, I am sure he will slot back into that opening role. He is in a good space. It's been a tough week for him but he is a very mature character, despite what people may think. Quinny is Quinny and we love having him in the team."
'We all in the team are in a good space' - Keshav Maharaj•AFP/Getty Images
Should de Kock reclaim his place, South Africa may then end up with four opening batters - de Kock, Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram - in their top six, but Maharaj is confident in their ability to adjust and adapt as required. "The good thing about our team is that most batters can bat in various positions, which gives us the depth that we need," he said. "Come tomorrow we will have a little bit of a shuffle in the line-up to slot in our batters but anyone is adapted to bat in any position and everyone is hitting the ball really nicely."
Maharaj also promised "a lot more energy than you have seen in these last two games," from the fielding effort, albeit that South Africa have already been clinical with ball in hand in both their previous games. Now, they're up for more, after what many in the camp have described as their most difficult week in the game. "It's been a tough week but the boys are mature enough and adult enough to adapt to the situation," Maharaj said. "The spirits were really high at training today. There's that buzz and that drive that is back into the team after quite a long two days. Our focus is back on the cricket for now. "
Jokingly asked if the team needed the board to issue another directive to ensure they put in a similar performance to the one they delivered against West Indies, Maharaj said no further instructions from the administrators are required. "I don't think we need any more directives. The only directive we need for ourselves is to bring our best on the field and the right energy and performances."