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Steyn: More of the same

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Proteas fast bowler Dale Steyn. Photo by Matt Roberts

Johannesburg – Dale Steyn is a Chelsea fan – a big Chelsea fan. It’s about the only thing not to like about the guy.

He enjoys rock music, surfing, charging around the bush, catching crocodiles (not giant ones) and of course bowling fast.

Off the field he is charming and affable and he’s quick with a chirp. On it he bowls fast, has crazy eyes, throbbing veins and what appears to be an angry disposition. When you watch Steyn you don’t mind him getting angry, “Angry Dale” in full flight has become one of sport’s most thrilling sights.

Most importantly though, for all the theatrics – the terrible celebrations and those crazy eyes – there’s the value he adds to the South African team via the wickets he takes – 312 in Tests at the conclusion of the New Zealand series.

In claiming Doug Bracewell’s wicket in the first innings of the Cape Town Test, he put himself in the conversation about the sport’s best bowlers. Steyn is just the 25th bowler to surpass 300 Test wickets and among modern quick bowlers he is the only one who has his name mentioned alongside Marshall, Ambrose, Lillee, Wasim and Waqar.

Comparing players from different eras is a tiresome exercise, but in the current era, in which bat has ruled ball by some distance, Steyn – from a statistical perspective – stands comfortably among the great fast bowlers of all time.

This is an era of bigger bats, smaller and faster fields and flat pitches. The increase in popularity of the shortest format has made life that much harder for quick bowlers and in many respects has changed their priorities.

It should surprise no one that the two best fast bowlers currently on the international scene are Steyn and James Anderson who both regard the Test format as the supreme measure of a player’s ability.

In getting to a landmark figure like 300 Test wickets there’s always the opportunity for reflection. I, however, find myself wondering how many Steyn will finish with.

He’s been largely fortunate in his career that he hasn’t missed too many matches because of injury – in fact he and Morné Morkel have played together in SA’s last 29 Tests: an astonishing feat.

Surpassing Allan Donald (330) seems a given as does Makhaya Ntini’s 390. In the distance sits Shaun Pollock’s 421, certainly the main target in Steyn’s sights right now.

Perhaps then we can talk about his true standing in the game. Right now he’s the best, but in the bigger picture, in the GOAT (Greatest of all time) argument, Steyn’s got a bit to do. It’ll be fun watching him do it. – The Star


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