Stick with Steyn!

Stick with Steyn!

Few sentiments are more galling and short-sighted than those from South African cricket ‘fans’ who propose an immediate cutting of ties between the national team and Dale Steyn following the heel injury which has ruled him out of the Test series against India. And it has nothing to do with sentiment.

Even those who discount the dedication to his job and the team, which saw him fight an often lonely and painful 13-month battle to recover from the broken shoulder, are missing the point. He will miss the rest of the India series but he will be fit again by the time the four Test series starts against Australia in March and the Proteas have a far better chance of beating them on home soil for the first time since readmission with him in the starting XI.

If he had bowled medium pace and looked like a spent force in the first innings at Newlands then the writing would have been on the wall for all to see. But, as Faf du Plessis said before the Test started, “his speed and skills have gone nowhere. For me, he is still the best bowler in the world.”

Team manager Mohammad Moosajee is undoubtedly close to the players and, as manager, there is bound to be some sentiment. But he is also a medical doctor and there is no room for sentiment or emotion in providing a clinical diagnosis – or prognosis, for that matter.

Those who disbelieve or doubt his assertion that the heel injury was “completely unrelated to his previous injury or his readiness for Test cricket” are being naieve. As Moosajee said, “it could have happened to anyone.” Doctors don’t make that stuff up.

The 17.3 overs he bowled were not only more than anyone else, but more than enough evidence that he remains a match-winner. His strength and stamina test results not only compare to the younger members of the squad, they exceed most of them. He is consistently in the top three at fitness test time. Retaining him and using him against Australia has nothing to do with the national wickets record (currently two short of Shaun Pollock’s 421)and even less to do with ‘sympathy’. It has everything to do with beating the Aussies.

The Aussie series may well be his Test farewell. There is only a tour to Sri Lanka in July before next season starts in October. By then it may be the end of the Test road for Steyn by which time the country’s genuine cricket supporters may still be basking in the afterglow of a series win against Australia which would complete the full set of home and away victories against all Test playing nations.

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