MUMBAI - Dale Steyn admits overtaking Shaun Pollock to become South Africa's highest wicket-taker has become something of a millstone around his neck but he is determined to prove he still has lot more to offer than merely claiming a 422nd test victim.
The 35-year-old paceman has been closing on Pollock's tally of 421 wickets for a couple of years. However, limited by injury to three tests since November 2016, he has managed only to reach, not pass, the milestone. Having proved his fitness on the recent tour of Sri Lanka, however, Steyn wants to get the record in the bag as quickly possible and move on with the rest of his career.
"Actually, it's like a bit of a burden now," he told Reuters in an interview. "I hope it just gets out of the way and we can just carry on. Because there's more wickets in me than 421. I have got 500 plus on the horizon so I don't know why we are so consumed on one number.
"When I am bowling it's like 'you're gonna get there, you're gonna get there'. I know I am, but I'm not interested in getting there. What I am interested in doing is performing well for my country, taking wickets and winning cricket games. If I can do that, those records, that fame and all the other things you want with professional sport will come."
Steyn's 421 wickets have come in 88 tests at an average of 22.64 and he is regarded as one of the sport's greatest fast bowlers for his ability to take wickets in all conditions. His injury problems began in December 2015, and about a year later he broke his right shoulder and tore three major muscles during the first test against Australia in Perth.
In January this year, he made a comeback after 13 months on the sidelines only to injure his heel when he opened the bowling in the first test victory over India at Newlands. After another six months out, he returned for the two-test series in Sri Lanka needing three wickets to overtake Pollock. He picked two in the opening test but went wicketless in the second.
We started this cricket thing way back in 2004 We’ve seen the world, met amazing people, played the great teams and beaten the best there is in it too. We’ve shared change rooms, been roomies, golf partners, McDonald’s after late nights. You’re a champion man in my book bud, and I’m pretty sure in everyone else’s too. Congratulations on a stellar international career, it’s been a incredible journey and privilege to have shared it with you. There’ll never be another Ab de Villiers 👊🏼
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Although Sri Lanka proved to be a tough gig for South Africa's fast bowlers in the 2-0 test series loss, Steyn was happy with how his body stood up to the challenge. "I actually quite enjoyed Sri Lanka," Steyn said at a GoPro promotional event.
"The interesting thing is that lot of people have been saying he's injured, he's struggling and everything like that. But I probably just got through the hardest test of my career and I'm absolutely fine. That's a plus in my book. I am pretty pleased with that. I walked away from both of those test matches not leaving the field once or having any problems. So the cloud of injury is, in my opinion, now gone."
And as eager as he is to get the issue of the record out of the way during the home series against Pakistan at the end of the year, he will approach his cricket as he has always done. "When I started playing cricket I was always told 'don't play for money, don't play for fame, don't play for records. If you are good enough it will come,'" he said.
"I thought that's perfect, I'll take that. I have played for 14 years. That went quickly. And in that 14 years came all of those things. If I have to sit there and focus on one thing like records, it will consume me."