Cape Town – Dale Steyn wants the Proteas to replicate the aura of the Springboks. That was the message from the world’s premier fast bowler at Newlands Cricket Ground on Thursday.
Steyn is the spearhead of the No 1 Test side in the world, but believes that for all the Proteas success away from home, the nation’s cricket team has not quite lived up to their billing in front of their own spectators.
South Africa have not lost a Test series on foreign soil in seven years, the last being in Sri Lanka in 2006 – that is Steyn’s only defeat – but the 30-year-old is now ready to turn on the after-burners on the Indians in the upcoming two-match series.
“The Boks have an aura, and that is something we can work on. For one, the Springboks have won two World Cups and the Proteas nothing as yet,” Steyn said at the launch of the Festival of Cricket on Thursday where the Proteas will face the Boks in a T20 match.
“We have done brilliantly away from home, but I just think at home we owe the South African fans a little something. When rugby teams come here, they are afraid of facing the Boks and we need to create a similar thing. We did well last season and now we have to continue that this summer.”
MS Dhoni’s Indian team are the Proteas’ first Test opposition at home this summer, with the first Test starting at the Wanderers next Wednesday.
It has not been an enjoyable visit to Africa for the tourists thus far, with Steyn and his fellow pacemen Morné Morkel, Vernon Philander, Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell proving too hot for the Indians in the one-day series.
Proteas coach Russell Domingo has promised that the intensity of South Africa’s pace onslaught will only increase from the time Steyn and Co. get the red ball in their hands on the Highveld, and his chief strike weapon sung from the same hymn sheet on Thursday.
“I’ve done fairly well against them (India) because they struggle against the pace and bounce, not unlike other teams,” Steyn said. “It will be a different ball game but we’ve been bowling well together as a unit for a while now, myself, Morné and Vern and hopefully Immy (Imran Tahir) is fit, so we can have a real go.”
On the surface the Ashes series may have nothing to do with either South Africa or India besides rankings points, but Steyn has been keeping a close eye on proceedings Down Under, which could spell further trouble for the likes of the Indian Test specialist batsmen Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Australia’s speed merchant Mitchell Johnson has exploded in the first two Tests, rattling the English batsmen with his express pace to put the home side 2-0 up in the series.
This has not gone unnoticed by the World’s No 1 fast bowler and Steyn could just arrive at the Bullring on Wednesday eager to show the Indians that he reamains the leader of the pack.
“The English are playing him like they are petrified, aren’t they?” Steyn said. “Even when he is not bowling that fast, it still looks like that. But Mitch is bowling fast and that’s good because I am a fan of fast bowling. And when kids watch guys like him, they want to bowl fast.”
The “Phalaborwa Express”, who will be turning out for his State of Origin in the North v South clash at Newlands on January 4, was for the sixth successive year included in the ICC Test Team of the Year.
Although Steyn doesn’t pay much attention to individual awards, his performances this year have been just short of incredible. There has been a resurgence in his limited-overs displays with two career-best performances this season, but it is in the Test arena where he has reigned supreme once again.
Steyn has 41 wickets in seven Tests at a phenomenal average of 14.36. This includes a mind-boggling 6/8 against Pakistan.
“This all comes in waves, hey,” he said. “I thought I was bowling well last year but I just wasn’t picking up the big wicket hauls, so this is probably the rewards for those times.
“My economy rate was always good and you guys write that I am not taking wickets, especially in one-day cricket where I am always bowling with just three fielders outside the ring, but it’s been good to pick up a couple of wickets. The awards that we do get are more an appreciation of the team’s efforts.”
NEW YEAR FESTIVAL OF CRICKET
*January 3: Proteas vs Springboks T20
*January 4: North vs South State of Origin Clash (Men and Women)
*January 5: RamSlam T20 Challenge: Dolphins vs Titans, 10am; Warriors vs Lions, 2pm, Cobras vs Knights, 6pm.
*Spectators will be entertained by the likes of Prime Circle, The Graeme Watkins Project, BlackByrd, Jack Parow and Marc Belling. There will also be plenty of food stalls, cricket coaching clinics and signing sessions.
*The North vs South State of Origin match will have a winner-takes-all prize pool of a R500 000 for the match.
*Tickets range from R80 to R150 with fans able to get a 33% discount if they buy a 3-day package.