SOUTHAMPTON – Both Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli mourned the end of Dale Steyn’s World Cup career on Tuesday.
Steyn, 35, was forced to withdraw from the South African squad due to a shoulder injury.
He will return home shortly to undergo rehabilitation, and will be replaced by Highveld Lions left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks.
“Dale has tried really hard – really hard – to try and get back into the team,” Proteas captain Du Plessis said on the eve of the all-important clash against India at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Tuesday.
“It’s been a tough two years, and we’ve got to be strong for him. He’s going to need a bit of love.
“He tried unbelievably hard to get fit for this campaign, which would have been his last World Cup. We’ve got to be there for him now.”
Steyn has been struggling with various injuries over the last three years, and there is a real possibility that South Africa’s highest-ever Test wicket-taker may retire altogether upon his return home.
Proteas team doctor Mohammed Moosajee ruled out any retirement plans just yet, saying, “I think he will be coming back”, after the veteran fast bowler meets his rehab team back in Cape Town.
"Dale needs love at the moment, was bowling unbelievably well in the lead up to this tournament. Who knows where he would be if he was picked up at the IPL?" - Proteas captain Faf du Plessis #CWC19 @IOLsport pic.twitter.com/OnzjfGLCUa— Zaahier Adams (@ZaahierAdams) June 4, 2019
India captain Virat Kohli, who only a few weeks ago played alongside Steyn for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League – where he injured his shoulder – was visibly disappointed not to be facing his “friend” on Wednesday.
“I am really feeling bad for Dale,” Kohli said. “He looked really happy, he was bowling very well.
“Suddenly, we find out that he is not going to continue. I feel bad for him because he has been a friend for a long time.
“He is a very motivated guy, he has been very happy to come back and play for South Africa.
“He has been doing really well. He has that hunger and passion still. But those niggles and injuries are not just going his way. I can understand the frustration about that. I wish him a speedy recovery.
WATCH: "I feel really bad for Dale. He has been a friend for a long time. He was in a really good mental space in the IPL." - India captain Virat Kohli on Dale Steyn. #CWC19 @RCBTweets @imVkohli @DaleSteyn62 @IOLsport pic.twitter.com/RKtz8lRu1m— Zaahier Adams (@ZaahierAdams) June 4, 2019
“From what I saw from him (at the IPL), he was in a great mental space. He was enjoying his cricket, bowling really well, getting along with everyone.
“So, I can understand he must be feeling gutted, and I am feeling bad for him actually,” he added.
South Africa will also be without fast bowler Lungi Ngidi for the India clash, although batsman Hashim Amla has recovered from his head injury sustained in the opening game against England last Thursday.