Before Indian cricket team head to South Africa in January for the all-important away tour, right-arm seamer Dale Steyn has made a remarkable comeback to the longest format of the sport. The bowler, who had been away from all forms of cricket for almost a year, after suffering a serious shoulder injury, was included in the South African squad for the upcoming Test series against Zimbabwe. But before the return to main-team, the 34-year old also got to display his skills in a tour game between South African Invitation XI and Zimbabwe, in which he made a steady start.
In 12 overs, Steyn did not manage to get a wicket, but bowled at a considerable pace with a steady line-and-length and gave away just 16 runs. Speaking about his performance, Steyn told reporters that it is not necessary for him to bowl at a fast speed all the time. “Cricket is strange. All you need to do is bowl one ball at 145, 150 kilometres an hour and people see that you can do that, and it’s in the back of their mind all the time. When a spinner comes out and rips one big the batsmen know one’s going to turn somewhere along the line, so they’re wary of it,” he said.
The seamer went on to add that the batsmen know that he can bowl at a fast speed which gives him an advantage on flat pitches. “I don’t have to run in and bowl 150 consistently all day long. I’ve just got to be able to do it every now and then. The batsmen will know that it’s there, and I’m able to take their feet away, hit them in the head, whatever. The rest of the time I’ve always relied on skill: relentless line and length, trying to knock guys over, and just being smart. When it’s really flat then you can crank it up,” he said.
Steyn, who came back to the side after a long rehabilitation form added that he is feeling great at the moment. “I feel good, I don’t feel like I am in any pain anywhere,” Steyn said. “That’s quite strange because I played a career with niggles all over the place, so it is quite nice to bowl now without anything,” he added.
On being asked whether he still makes the cut in the team at his age, the bowler said that he is getting better with age. “I like to play cricket. I want to play cricket as long as I can. Age isn’t really a factor.”
He further added that he is still fitter than some of the younger members of the squad. “I am still fitter than the youngest guys in the side. It was just about getting through this year and trying to decide whether I still wanted to do it. I think most people at 34 start thinking about other things in life like retirement and family and those types of things. I am in a fortunate position that I don’t really need to think about that much right now. Cricket is my main focus,” he said.
Steyn is likely to be included in the Test squad for the upcoming series against India. In 85 international Tests, the bowler has taken 417 wickets at an average of 22.30. He just needs 5 more wickets to surpass Shaun Pollock’s as South Africa’s leading wicket-taker.