There is a new maturity about Dale Steyn, and it indicates he is self-managing his undiminished excellence.
Many commentators have debated whether he should be considering retirement, or perhaps dedicating himself to the lucrative commercial T20 leagues around the world which will ensure he will never have to go without a new surfboard.
They cite his ever-increasing incidents of injury and waning influence on the match.
Well, he put that to bed, in the second innings, particularly, of the New Zealand Test at Centurion, where he took 5-33, for eight in the match. Shaun Pollock enthused in the commentary box that Steyn’s performance was the best he had seen in ‘a very, very long time.’
And Steyn himself said that while in the first innngs he struggled with his length (and still took 3-66), it all came right in the second. ‘It felt so good,’ he said. ‘It felt like the ball was on a piece of string and I could do what I wanted with it.’
He also emphasised how much he was enjoying cricket, how much he loved bowling; so much so that when he was left out of the ODI series in the West Indies, he had to play T20s with Glamorgan, ‘just to get overs under my belt’.
Still the selectors debate whether he should be in the ODI team, although they were slightly disingenuous when justifying his omission from the West Indies series by saying it was a spinners’ paradise and they didn’t want him sitting on the sidelines; and that he needed to be rested. From what? He played only one game in the IPL immediately before.
He made an oblique sideswipe at their stance when he said, ‘Nothing is guaranteed; I can’t even make the ODI side at the moment …’
Perhaps there are occasions when selectors do need to say, ‘We think you are doing too much’, but in this form, Steyn should call the shots. When the selectors sit down, the first thing they should do is give Steyn a call and ask, ‘which of these next matches do you fancy?’ Forget the Ireland series; that can be used for development, but he must have a role in the Australian ODI series to build up momentum for the Test series following.
Steyn says that one day he will wake up and decide he doesn’t want to do it any more. But that should be his choice. Right now, the Proteas need him, not only for his skill, but for his inspiration and leadership. He needs six wickets to become the most prolific Test bowler in South African history. He deserves nothing less.
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