One can easily claim that South African fast bowler has made the return of the year. The right-arm pacer has grown in confidence and there is a new X-factor in him that is binding South Africa well.
Steyn’s horrific run of injuries looks to be behind him and he looks well set to take hold of the proceedings in leading the line for the Proteas.
Come the ICC World Cup 2019, Steyn could well set the stage on fire when his side takes on India in the teams’ opening encounter. Dale Steyn was terrific in the recently concluding ODI series against Australia and played a decisive role in helping his side win 2-1.
Having endured a horrendous period of nearly two years battling injury that started with a broken shoulder in Australia in November 2016, Steyn is now back to his destructive best. He was seen clocking speeds of up and around 150 kph this month. And well he is 35 years old.
Steyn can be called as the superstar the game needs at the moment. Barring a few world class names, cricket doesn’t have many in the pool. Steyn’s magic on the field mixed with fire and hunger spells a world of good for the champion bowler.
Steyn was terrific against Australia
Steyn finished the series against Australia as South Africa’s joint-highest wicket taker, claiming 7 scalps at just 13.42 and 3.48 per over. From bowling fuller and faster, he often drew the Aussies to go forward only to get thick edges to the keeper or the slip cordon.
The reason SA won the series was the early scalps Steyn got for them. He looked charging in like a bull every time he ran in to the crease. It was the Steyn of the yesteryears. For a man, who wanted to sign out with a bang, Steyn has shown he is here to stay and achieve what he set out to.
The signs in Australia, though, were promising and Steyn has launched himself straight into the World Cup mix where coach Ottis Gibson looks more and more likely to go in bowling-heavy, given the conditions in England.
“Not so long ago I didn’t think that I would be playing cricket again,” Steyn said in his press-conference in Australia. But he defied all odds and shifted the balance in his favour.
After the first ODI of the series, skipper Fan du Plessis was in praise for the bowler in his post-match conference. “Brilliant to have Dale back. It’s good to have that x-factor in your bowling attack. I like to take the positive option.”
Amazing how many people wrote him off, never write off a champion! https://t.co/N73ygyQzFd
— Graeme Smith (@GraemeSmith49) November 13, 2018
Injuries took a toll on the fast bowler
After over a year out from that horrific shoulder injury, Steyn was injured again in his first Test back against India at Newlands in 2017 with a freakish heel injury. Throughout all of that, there were times when he felt that it might be the end of the road. These thoughts are natural for any sportsman.
In the recent mix of games, Steyn also picked 5 ODI wickets against Zimbabwe in October. Prior to that, he last played an ODI match back in October 2016. That is two years ago. He could have achieved so much during this period, but injuries had their say often plaguing him at crucial times.
Here is a look at Steyn’s timeline of injuries –
December 2009: Steyn suffered a hamstring injury on his right leg. After recovering from the same, he went on to feature in each of South Africa’s 48 Tests. Quite an impressive number in world cricket.
In this phase, SA won 24 of the 48 Tests Steyn featured in. The Proteas star picked wickets at a heap and registered 232 at an average of 21.72. All was going well for around 6 years, until fate had things set otherwise.
November 2015: The fast bowler suffered a groin strain in the Nagpur Test against India. He then went on to miss the remainder of the series.
A month later he had shoulder spasm against England, that forced him to sit out of the first Test at Durban. In January 2016, he missed the remaining three Tests against the Three Lions.
After a brief recover mid year, he picked 10 wickets against the Kiwis across two Tests. But the joy was cut short.
November 2016: The right-arm pacer fractured his right shoulder against Australia on Day 2 of the first Test at Perth.
From there on until December 2017, he missed all of South Africa’s next 15 Tests. That included two versus Australia, 3 versus Sri Lanka, 3 versus New Zealand, 4 versus England, 2 versus Bangladesh and a lone Test against Zimbabwe.
January 2018: Steyn did make a comeback against Zimbabwe late December in 2017, before another heel injury hurt his comeback. On January 4, he suffered the injury in the first Test and missed the remaining two Tests.
In this gruesome injury timeline, Steyn featured in just 6 of the 29 Tests SA played after their completion of the series against India.
One of the greatest comebacks in store?
Steyn played both the Tests against Sri Lanka in July 2018 and could be in the starting line-up when his side faces Pakistan next at home this summer. Steyn will also be backing himself to go past Shaun Pollock as South Africa’s all-time leading wicket-taker in Test cricket (421).
He needs just one more wicket to achieve that, and when he does it will cap off one of the greatest comebacks South African cricket has ever seen.
Also the manner in which he has played in the ODIs, it is safe to say that SA will be using him wisely in the coming months and help him stay fit for the World Cup. If he does get to play the event, then that in itself will be a fairytale of a return this decade has witnessed.
With Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir and perhaps even Vernon Philander in contention, South Africa are on course to field one of the tournament’s most dangerous bowling line-ups.
“The World Cup is still a long way away. I think right now my biggest influence in that World Cup side is to come in and really push buttons where I can,” Steyn said.
Steyn will be plying his trade in the Mzansi Super League 2018 next. He will be representing the Cape Town Blitz in the tournament.