JOHANNESBURG - Dale Steyn’s mentoring of the younger Proteas fast bowlers comes with a caveat, he admitted yesterday. No, not a fee for that mentoring role Ottis Gibson talked about earlier this week but rather that while he was happy to dispense with some advice, he was also going to strain every sinew to try and get ahead of them for a spot in the World Cup squad next year.
“It’s good to have challengers. Lungi (Ngidi) and KG (Rabada) will appreciate the fact that I am coming back in the side because they will know their position is under threat, we all are; you can only take a handful of fast bowlers to the World Cup and we are all fighting for a spot,” Steyn said after a fairly relaxed training session at the Wanderers for the Proteas ahead of the three match ODI series against Zimbabwe. The first match will be played in Kimberley on Sunday.
“Everyone wants to go to the World Cup, I’d love to, but individually I’d love nothing more than to see the Proteas win a World Cup and if that means I don’t go so be it. But I did my job coming in here pushing guys to do their best; KG, Lungi, Wiaan (Mulder), Andile (Phehlukwayo), all the guys.
“If we won the World Cup, maybe my name will be mentioned in the shadows about how I helped the guys to win it, or maybe I take the last wicket, who knows, but I’m just happy to be here playing cricket and challenging (for a spot) again.”
Indeed the number of people wanting to usher Steyn to exit the international scene, seemed to be growing larger by the day as long term injuries to his shoulder and then heel kept him sidelined. But the 35-year-old never stopped believing. After playing both Tests in Sri Lanka in July, he headed back to Hampshire for another stint on the county circuit initially in the T20 competition and then the first class tournament. In all he played five first class matches for Hampshire bowling more than 140 overs.
Having coming through largely unscathed physically has helped Steyn’s confidence. “I just wanted to play cricket and it was good to go over there and be on the park consistently. You are playing non-stop, which is great because when you get into great rhythm you don’t want to wait a week or five days for the next game, you just want to carry on going.”
Steyn ended his stint in England playing first class cricket, so is keen to use the next few days before the first match against Zimbabwe to get into ‘white ball’ rhythm. That he explained encompassed more than just practising yorkers and slower balls.
“Bowling in PowerPlays is really difficult, ODI bowling is really a mindset thing right now and if you can get into the right mindset, be content with the fact that one day you could go for 100 runs and the next day be the hero, then you’ll be fine and those are the little challenges I must deal with going forward.”
Steyn last played an ODI in 2016, a 5-0 series win against Australia, where he took just five wickets at an average of 50.80.