The Steyn Remover a.k.a Phalaborwa Express is back, hungry, thirsty and dying to go out there in whites, take the red cherry in his hand and unleash fury on his opponents. That he still lies at no.10 in the ICC Test bowling rankings despite not playing Tests for over a year speaks volumes about the kind of bowler Dale Steyn is.
417 wickets and 26 five-wicket hauls show the kind of impact Steyn has had in Test cricket. Make no mistake, this man is the real deal. Nobody expected him to walk back and play Tests after he hobbled off at Perth on day 1 of South Africa’s Test series in Australia.
But after a year of rehabilitation, slow progress, grit, determination and steeliness, Steyn is back and with renewed hunger.
“I feel good, I don’t feel like I am in any pain anywhere,” Steyn had said last week. “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. It is just about getting overs under the belt, and the recovery over the weekend and then pick it up again when I get to Port Elizabeth.”
He went wicketless in South Africa Invitation XI’s match against Zimbabwe two days back but that wasn’t the point of playing the match. Steyn didn’t aim for too much pace or swing, just landed the ball in the right areas, almost had Hamilton Mazakadza (if not for a dropped catch) but never fretted once. He was happy to back and trying to find his lost rhythm.
Time to dust off the old whites ??
— Dale Steyn (@DaleSteyn62) December 19, 2017
But for someone with his experience and grittiness, hitting the ground running is a norm. As the Boxing Day Test gears up, expect Dale Steyn to roar in, veins popping and sending shivers down the spine of Zimbabwean batsmen. He is just that kind of a bowler. When he goes all out into attacking, there are few bowlers who ooze more energy, vibe and oomph than Steyn.
“I think we all have that one friend in life that runs the Comrades [a marathon of 90 kilometres] up until he is 60. I would like to think I am one of those guys. I don’t really worry about fitness. 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 had said last week.
— Dale Steyn (@DaleSteyn62) November 15, 2017
It shows that the Steyn-gun is fit and raring to have a go. But the Zimbabwean Test is a teaser. It is India in January that Steyn is eagerly targeting. He wants to ensure that he is firing full on by the time India set foot in the Rainbow Nation.
And he probably has a plan or two up his sleeve for the dominant Indians. It is the Steyn-factor that India would be wary of. He has demolished them in the past and memories of Nagpur where he wore them down on a home track would still be fresh in the memories of Indian fans.
With Steyn returning, the South African bowling attack has a distinctively sharper look akin to Australia’s. They have Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel for height and intimidation while Vernon Philander – also returning from injury – poses questions with his seam movement. Steyn is for swinging the new red ball and reversing the old one. Together the four make a terrific pace bowling battery that Indian batsmen, used to playing on flat-baked wickets, will find quite intimidating.
Steyn’s record against them alone should put India on the back-foot. The Titans seamer has 63 Test wickets in 13 Tests against the sub-continental side at an average of 21.38. Three of his five five-fors against India have also come in South Africa, where he has an outrageous record.
If anything, a niggle-free, rhythmic Dale Steyn is a bad omen for the Indians. He is just five wickets shy of becoming South Africa’s leading Test wicket-taker (Shaun Pollock holds the record now) but he isn’t a man for the records. He is more about steaming in and dismantling batsmen with his pace, swing and deadly stare. The “Remover” is back and India have a LOT to worry about.