JOHANNESBURG – Legendary paceman Dale Steyn has added another dose of South African superstardom to this summer’s KFC Big Bash League after signing with the Melbourne Stars.
A week after Brisbane Heat pulled off a coup by luring Proteas great AB de Villiers for the second half of the season, Steyn has joined the Stars for their first six games of the tournament, a stint that could be extended if the 36-year-old is overlooked by South African selectors later in the summer.
One of the greatest fast bowlers of all time, Steyn retired from Test cricket in August, but remains available to play white-ball cricket for the Proteas and is hoping to be picked for their matches against England on home soil in February.
But if the selectors look to blood some younger players after their horror one-day World Cup campaign earlier this year, a return to Melbourne could be on the cards for Steyn.
"I don’t think we can rule that out," said Steyn, who missed the World Cup in June and July due to a shoulder injury.
"Obviously, the first prize is always to play for your country. Representing South Africa is the only thing I’ve ever done for my whole career, so to get back into that team is prize number one.
"But if that doesn’t happen, I still want to be playing cricket. I don’t want to be sitting in South Africa not doing anything.
"So if there’s a chance that I could go back over and play for the Stars, it can be open to discussion. It certainly can happen.
"But we’ve got to wait for the Proteas’ selection decision, and we can take it from there.”
Steyn hasn’t played international cricket in any format since March. The selectors said he wasn’t fit enough for the recent T20 series against India, although Steyn himself suggested he had been available for selection.
As a nationally contracted player, Steyn needs permission from Cricket South Africa (CSA) to play in foreign T20 leagues. The fact the paceman will return home immediately after the blockbuster Melbourne derby against the Renegades at the MCG on January 4 – a month before South Africa’s ODI series against England gets underway – indicates he remains well in the frame for higher honours.
But with the T20 World Cup to be held in Australia late next year, CSA were happy to give their star quick another taste of 20-over cricket down under, while the Proteas are playing Tests against England over the Christmas period.
"They’re (normally) pretty tight on not allowing players to go and play in the Big Bash," Steyn said.
“But knowing that I’m not available for the Tests, wanting to keep me fit, and also having one eye on the Twenty20 World Cup at the back-end of next year, they probably felt like it was a good call.
"And that is great because it keeps me in the running for the World Cup.
"Winning a World Cup medal with your country would be a big highlight. If I can go over to Australia and get some more experience in those conditions, that could be beneficial.”
The recruitment of Steyn continues a busy off-season for the Stars, who have already lured Nathan Coulter-Nile and Hilton Cartwright away from Western Australia, re-signed Nepalese leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and announced David Hussey as head coach, replacing Kiwi Stephen Fleming.
Steyn’s six matches will take him on a tour of some of the BBL’s smaller venues; he has two matches at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast while he will also play in the Victorian country town of Moe, Launceston, in northern Tasmania and the Sydney Showgrounds before the mouth-watering derby against the Renegades – a replay of last season’s final – at the MCG.
Given that De Villiers has only signed for the second half of the Heat’s season, the two South Africans won’t cross paths during the tournament, unless Steyn returns later in the summer.