“Phalaborwa is a long way away from here so they don’t get to come very often but they watch on TV whenever they can and when I got back to the change room there were 30 messages on my phone,” said Dale Steyn after winning the second Test with a second successive ten-wicket haul.
Steyn plays with a smile on his face and although he is learning to wear a nasty face mask on the field and say beastly things to batsmen, there is nothing he says or does off the field that reflects anything but the small-town honesty of his rise to fame and prominence.
“I’m proud of where I come from, all my cousins, my gran, my sister, my old friends, they’re all there at home and, although they might not know much about cricket, they celebrate each of my wickets and they read the newspapers so they know if I’m having a good day or a bad day,” Steyn says with the everpresent smile.
Why does he smile so much?
“Because most of the other guys in the team have played for so long they are focussed when they walk on the field and they mean business, but when I walk on the field I still can’t believe I’m actually there. I think that’s why I keep getting caught with a big grin on my face.”
So Steyn is now a fixture in the Test team and should also be drafted immediately into the one-day squad to face the hapless Black Caps after taking 20 wickets at an average of nine?
Hopefully not. There is plenty of time and the Phalaborwa Express is still learning about his action, his body and his capabilities. He doesn’t need a non-stop stream of cricket and will not benefit from playing in every one-day game South Africa plays.
If Steyn is to join the one-day squad then it should be on the basis that he plays only when conditions and the balance of the team permit him to be at his best.
His astonishing Test form has been built on the premise that Graeme Smith has the tools he needs to ‘control’ the other end while launching his weapon of mass destruction from the other. In one-day cricket, Steyn won’t have the ‘luxury’ of not worrying about his bad balls.
Besides, he is a treasure worth the bestowing of special status. He refuted the suggestion that he had arrived on the international stage and was worthy of his current ranking alongside Brett Lee in the world’s top ten bowlers and insisted that he was “just doing his job.” Smith was reluctant to contradict his paceman, but his facial expression betrayed his pleasure.
“He is very special and he’s obviously just being humble, but the fact that he wants more, and is hungry for more success, is great news for me and the team.”
Mickey Arthur spoke about rotating the fast bowlers this summer, especially when Morne Morkel returns from injury, but such a process is always easier spoken about than done. But when making the decision whether to play Steyn or rest him, the coach and selectors will do well to remember Steyn’s form against New Zealand and how they will feel if over-bowling means he is unavailable against England this winter and Australia in 12 months time.
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