It takes a great deal to break Dale Steyn’s spirit. In fact, whatever it takes has yet to be discovered or created. But omission from the starting XI against the West Indies in the Proteas’ do-or-die match against the West Indies in Nagpur on Friday might come as close as anything – on the field, at least.
The man who dominated fast bowling with over a decade with the number one ranking in the world has had a tough year, starting with the job-sharing scheme imposed by the SunrisersHyderabad in last year’s IPL when they added New Zealander Trent Bolt to their squad and used Steyn as a waiter for half the season.
Then, after 42 consecutive Tests without injury, the Phalaborwa Express suffered two serious, back-to-back injuries which robbed both him and his team of the chance to compete adequately in the four Test series against India and England.
Steyn’s disastrous two overs in the first match of the ICC T20 cost a whopping 35 runs and he was subsequently benched against Afghanistan. He took his medicine and acted like the complete professional he is – on the outside. But inside it hurt, a lot.
Now he is desperate to atone for the England game (in which he had a catch dropped in his first over which might have changed everything) but is uncertain of his place in the XI despite his phenomenal record at the Vidharba Cricket Association Ground.
He claimed his best Test figures of 7-51 there during a famous Test victory and then added another man-of-the-match award during the 2011 World Cup victory against England when he collected 5-50. His record for various teams during the IPL is no less impressive.
Conditions could hardly be more different for the West Indies match than they were for the first two matches but Steyn insists they are in his favour.
“At the Wankhede Stadium In Mumbai the equation was simple. It was all about scoring runs and the team which scored the most won the game.
“At the VCA Stadium here in Nagpur the equation is different – it’s about NOT scoring runs. The team which can restrict the opposition to the fewest runs wins the game.
“It may sound the same but there is a subtle and important difference. Here the bowlers come into the game a lot more and conditions are far more conducive to taking wickets because there is something for us to work with,” Steyn said.
“Wickets can fall in bunches, two or three at a time and suddenly the game has been turned upside down in the space of a couple of overs. The best way to restrict the opposition is by taking wickets and the onus on bowlers is different. We can adopt an attacking mindset rather than a defensive one,” Steyn said.
Steyn is still South Africa’s best bowler and the go-to man. He might have a bad day, nothing is guaranteed in sport. But leaving him on the bench would be utter folly.
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