Dale Steyn has reaffirmed his commitment to South African cricket, after an injury-riddled 2015-16 season had cast a shadow over his international future. Steyn missed six of South Africa’s eight Tests last season and was left out of the ODI side that toured the Caribbean for a triangular series in June but says he has returned even more in love with the game than he was before, and is even more determined to keep playing.
“I just want to play. I don’t know if I will wake up in a month and can’t do it anymore or if I will wake up in four years and can’t do it anymore. I just really enjoy playing Test cricket. I love it. It’s what I feel I have been put on earth to do,” Steyn said. “I do not know when to pull the plug or when the time to make that decision will come but if I am still making batters jump around and the pace is there, I will carry on doing what I am doing.”
Steyn was the leading wicket-taker in the two-match Test series against New Zealand with 10 scalps at 10.20 and claimed his 26th five-for in Centurion to end questions over whether he could regain the fitness and form of the past. When he struggled through last season questions were asked over whether Steyn was spent, but he insists he never thought so.
“No, there was never any doubt. I tried to rush back for the Bangalore Test and if I hadn’t, I would have probably played the [rest of the] series against India,” Steyn said, referring to the groin strain he picked up on that tour. “Then, against England, I tried to go from 0 to 100 too quickly and I broke a bone in my shoulder which is very rare. It was not a case of age or ability. There was no doubt that my ability was there or that I could play this game anymore.”
Steyn worked his way back through T20, in the IPL, CPL and with Glamorgan, and still needed to prove to himself that he could bowl longer and more sustained spells. Before this Test series, he said he would be happy if he could just get through it injury free. He managed that after bowling more overs than anyone else in South Africa’s pace attack and re-established himself as the leader of the pack. Still, Steyn does not regard himself as more important than anyone else.
“This bowling unit is at a stage where everyone can rely on everybody – you don’t have to rely on me,” he said. “Look at KG [Kagiso Rabada], he took 13 wickets here last time [against England]. It’s now about the culture in the side. You can step in and perform. It’s not aimed at one player to mentor anyone.”
That may be the case, but Steyn remains the spearhead in every way. He is now six wickets away from overtaking Shaun Pollock as South Africa’s leading Test wicket-taker. Considering he is committed to carrying on playing, he seems certain to achieve that, but maintained that is not the missing line on his CV.
“When I am 70 years old that’s not what I am going to remember,” Steyn said. “I will remember tonight. I will remember winning in Australia, I will remember winning in England, and hopefully I will remember winning a World Cup too.” (ESPNcricinfo)
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent