CAPE TOWN - Dale Steyn will be back. At least that’s what legendary West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding believes.
South Africa went to bed on Saturday evening fearing the worst. The nation had just witnessed Steyn hobble off the field with a heel injury.
Medical reports confirmed he would play no further part in the series against India.
Considering it was the third time that Steyn had broken down in five Tests, and the fact that the 34-year-old had only just returned from a shoulder injury after a year-long absence, there many who felt that Newlands would be the great fast bowler’s Test swansong.
Steyn is just three wicket shy of surpassing Shaun Pollock’s all-time South African Test record of 421 wickets.
“I was very disappointed when I heard that he got injured. When I saw him limping off the field and I discovered it was a bruised heel, I knew it was going to take some time for him to recover," Holding said.
"I had that problem. I love watching that man perform. He has such great control. He has all the aggression a fast bowler requires,” Holding said.
“He has the pace, maybe not as quick as when he was a youngster, but you don’t expect him to be. He came back and he showed he is still a match-winner. I am really disappointed that he will no longer be involved in this series.”
Steyn faces close to six weeks on the sidelines, which leaves sufficient time to recover ahead of the first Test against Australia on March 1 at Kingsmead in Durban. The selectors would understandably be anxious about his match-fitness, but Holding certainly believes he will be ready.
“This one (injury) is not anywhere near as serious as the one he had. The shoulder problem he had was a really big one because it is the mechanical part of your body that does all the hard work,” Holding said.
“The rest of your body contributes to this. I have no doubt he will be back from this, unless he couldn’t be bothered, but I doubt you will hear that from Dale Steyn because the amount of work he put in to get back to playing from that shoulder injury, I don’t think a heel problem will put him out of the game where he says he wants to retire. I expect him to be back and looking forward to seeing him against Australia.”
Steyn’s return in this series opener allowed South Africa to field a four-man pace attack along with spinner Keshav Maharaj. It is not a tactic the Proteas have utilised since the disastrous third Test against England at the Wanderers in 2016 when Hardus Viljoen debuted at his home ground.
However, the quality of the four South African fast bowlers on display at Newlands had Holding reminiscing about the “Awesome Foursome” he was part of during the 1970s-80s while playing for the West Indies.
Holding, though, believes that South Africa’s attack have an even greater edge due to Vernon Philander’s skill with the new ball.
“This is a very good bowling attack. It has all the bases covered. The four that we had, we complemented each other as well, we were a little bit different. But Vernon Philander is completely different to anything that we had,” Holding explained.
“Maybe that’s why they didn’t bowl on day one because Vernon Philander, on this pitch, on the first day, they didn’t want Vernon Philander to totally destroy India.
“On that type of pitch he is virtually unplayable. We didn’t have anyone like that. We had good bowlers, some great bowlers, Marshall and Roberts... the four that we had, had more pace but we didn’t have a Vernon Philander.”