It’s the nature of human beings to grossly overrate the past when comparing eras but even if you do that Dale Steyn commands respect as one of the top fast bowlers to have played the game. Even if we take in account the beginning of time when cricket started there have been few like Steyn to catch the attention and command respect from his team mates and peers alike. Steyn’s achievements also should be rated much higher as he is playing at a time when pitches if I may use the word are doctored to help the batsmen. The batsmen have all the factors going for them form big bats, short boundaries, field restrictions, two new balls, covered pitches and a general public tendency to see fours and sixes. But let me tell you there is not a better sight in cricket than a fast bowler running in full throttle and letting the red cheery rip.
A sedate start
(Image Source: Firstpost.com)
Steyn made his debut against England in Port Elizabeth in 2004. He picked 3 wickets but he seemed to be the player who has speed and guile but does not have the maturity to how to use that effectively. Steyn picked up 16 wickets in his second series but he was still not a bowler who made you stand up and applaud, yes there was a peach of a delivery here and there but as a complete package he was not just that class.
The summer of 2008
Till 2008 people knew that Steyn is a wonderful bowler but what happened in 2008 made people say wow and announced Steyn as someone who is here to make a mark as an all-time great. He took 10 wickets in the match against New Zealand and opened up Craig Cummins face with a rip snorter of a bouncer that landed him in ICU. The wickets followed in heap and in the year he picked up 86 wickets in 14 test matches at an average of 18.10. He was named as the ICC test player of the year which was remarkable being a fast bowler taking into account that he played a test series in Bangladesh and India during that year which as any cricket lover would understand are as conducive to fast bowlers as Tinder is to find your future bride.
India vs South Africa, Ahmedabad – 2008
South Africa were playing India at the Sardar Motera stadium in Ahmedabad. India won the toss and chose to bat. What happened in the next couple of hours left every cricket pundit in shock. On Indian pitches the norm is you win the toss score big in first innings and let the spinners do their job from third day onwards. India also hoped for the same but a certain Dale Steyn had other ideas. He blew away the top order and India folded in 20 overs for 76 runs. Steyn was the wrecker in chief, his figures read 8 overs 2 maidens 23 runs and five wickets. South Africa eventually won the game inside three days by an innings and 90 runs. This spell truly announced that Steyn is a bowler who does not need help from the surface and is a force to reckon everywhere.
Stats don’t lie
I agree that stats don’t give you the exact picture but if viewed over a period of time will give you enough food for thought. So Steyn has played 82 test matches till date and has picked up 406 wickets at a mind-blowing average of 22.53 per wicket. You can gauge the greatness when you compare that the two other premier fast bowlers of his generation James Anderson and recently retired Mitchell Johnson picks up their wickets at 29.18 per wicket and 28.40 per wicket respectively. In ODIs also Steyn is way better than any other bowler, he has played only 112 ODIs in his 10 plus year long career and that is commendable on Cricket South Africa part that he has preserved the fast bowler. In these 112 ODIs he has picked 175 wickets at an average of 25.13 with an impressive economy of 4.86.
He has not retired and there is more to come from him, we can only expect him to get better with age as experience will help him to add a few tricks up his sleeve. Even if he retires today, it’s time that we acknowledge that Steyn is once in a generation fast bowler and his greatness transcends eras. It’s a pleasure to watch you bowl Sir, Thank You.
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