Once South Africa’s most feared fast bowler, Dale Steyn, even at 36, is still leading the wicket-takers chart in the ongoing Mzansi Super League 2019. Steyn’s extreme pace and the ability to swing the ball both ways, just the way he did during the peak of his career, has been on display in the South African T20 tournament. The Cape Town Blitz bowler has picked up 15 wickets in eight games, at an economy of 7.09 RPO.
When the pacer picked up a record 86 wickets in 14 matches back in 2008, many had foreseen a South African team that would always remain unbeaten if Steyn’s form remained consistent.
However, as fate had it, the right-arm quick was bogged down by several injuries in the latter part of his career, which reduced his pace and kept him out of several series. But there was a period in his career, when, for almost eight years, he sustained no injuries.
For a fast bowler to dodge injuries for a period as long as that is an aspect of Steyn’s career that isn’t discussed often, but the pacer shines a light on what it takes to make a comeback from injury.
On the sidelines of the MSL 2019, Sportskeeda caught up with Dale Steyn in an exclusive chat and here are the excerpts –
Q. How crucial is the MSL in context to scouting talent for the next year’s World Cup?
Much like most T20 leagues, it is a good platform for the young guys to come up against the best guys of international cricket and also the South African internationals who aren’t usually around. While playing against the top players, you get to challenge yourself and the scouts get to see who can handle it and who cannot.
Q. In your opinion, what makes the current crop of Indian fast bowlers so special?
Virat Kohli is an aggressive captain and I think that is one reason how India’s pacers have shaped up and gained dominance. Plus the pitches back in India used to be only spin conducive earlier but now we see pitches on which pacers too dwell.
Add to that the IPL, which scouted some great pacers from Indian domestic cricket, who rose through the ranks after playing the tournament. I think all of this has helped the emergence of a pace battery as strong as the current one.
Q. Do you think fast bowlers are a bit unlucky? A batsman can play even with a fractured finger but a bowler cannot.
It doesn’t make us unlucky. In fact, I think it only proves that we are stronger, fitter and better!
Q. There was a period in your career when, for almost eight years, you didn't have any major injuries (apart from niggles which is usual). How was that possible? Fast bowlers are usually very injury prone.
Well, it was about sticking to the basics. I had good fitness levels, and I was blessed with a very easy, fluent action, repetitive and not confusing. To top that I tried to stay as healthy and fit as possible. Being a person who loves staying outdoors helped me as well.
Q. Do you view your recent injuries as a blessing in disguise? You must have got to spend a lot of time with family.
Yes, I definitely do. Every cricketer wants to have a break somewhere in their sporting career and then able to come back to play. Mine came with a broken shoulder so it worked out quite nicely.
Q. Fast bowling is not for everyone. Once Shoaib Akhtar had said that you have to be mad to be a fast bowler. You need obsession. Tell us about this.
I don’t think you need to be mad to be a fast bowler, but you need to be blessed. A fast bowler can have the same physique as a well-built batsman, except one can’t hit the ball out the ground and the other can’t bowl at 145kph. You must be blessed genetically to be a fast bowler and you have to make it work. It can’t be taught, it's more like a person is born with the skill.