Dale Steyn: The comeback man
The flamboyant and intimidating South African pacer Dale Steyn is all set to make a comeback into the Test format and will be playing in a four-day day/night match against Zimbabwe.The stupendous fast bowler had sustained a shoulder injury 13 months back while playing against Australia.
Dale Steyn has been exceptional in the longest format with 417 wickets in 85 matches at an average of 22.31.
The much-awaited Test series between India and South Africa is set to begin on January 5, 2018 and the prospect of Steyn being a part of it adds to the thrill. India is at the crest of its game in the longer format, winning nine consecutive Test series. The Indian top-order batsmen locking horns with Dale Steyn would be a sight worth watching.
Let us have a look at how Steyn could trouble the Indian batsmen :
Big out swinging deliveries
Steyn has been one of the largest exponents of outswing bowling in the modern era. To a right-handed batsman, his deliveries start from the middle and off and swing away sharply. Most of these deliveries are full pitched, tempting the batsman into a drive, resulting in them finding an edge more often than not. Moreover, these out swinging deliveries are bowled at a lightning speed of over 140 kmph, giving the batsman very little time to react.
Although all the Indian right-handed top order batsmen have been exemplary in recent times, Steyn's fast out-swinging deliveries can trouble them.
Virat Kohli - The Indian skipper is the epitome of batsmanship and is in the form of his life. In 2014, he went through a rough patch where his tendency to push at the balls outside off and playing away from the body was heavily exploited overseas by the English pacers.
Although Kohli's patience has grown over the years and he tries to leave the balls outside off, it perhaps remains the only way to get the genius out and thus Steyn could cause some trouble.
Ajinkya Rahane - India's vice-captain in the Test format, Rahane's performance in 2017 has been poor: he has just one Test hundred to his name.
Lack of form leads to lack of footwork and indecisiveness which in turn forces the batsman to play away from the body, thus edging the ball. Over the years, Rahane has been one of the finest batsmen for India in overseas conditions. But, given his dwindling form, Steyn's outswinging deliveries could prove to be a nightmare for him.
Steyn's menacing bouncers often crash into the batsman's helmet or are aimed at the batsman's ribs. The pitches in South Africa tend to have an extra bounce and pace in the wicket. This nature of pitches enables Steyn to generate steep bounce from a short-of-good-length area combined with a tremendous speed, taking the batsman by surprise and resulting in a false shot.
Let us see against which top-order Indian batsmen will Steyn employ his short pitch bowling tactics in the upcoming series:
Shikhar Dhawan - The Indian opener has been in sublime touch and has piled up runs in past 6-8 months. Dhawan has worked on his technique against the balls going away from him and has started to leave such deliveries.
Although this exercise has improved his batting manifold, Dhawan's vulnerability to short pitch balls bowled at the body has been a matter of concern since 2014 New Zealand series. Steyn may try to exploit this weak spot of Dhawan.
Cheteshwar Pujara - The definition of patience and calm, Pujara is a class apart when it comes to batting in the Test format. His wicket would be a crucial one for the Proteas. Getting Pujara out by forcing him to push at balls outside off is a difficult feat to achieve.
Thus a bouncer may be South Africa's best bet to get Pujara out. In fact, Australian bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc were able to pick up Pujara with brilliant short pitch deliveries in the 2017 series of India Vs Australia.
Reverse swinging deliveries
Reverse swing is a difficult art to master and Dale Steyn is a wizard of reverse swing in the modern era. Steyn showcased his prowess in reverse swing bowling back in 2014 against Australia picking up 2 wickets of 2 reverse swinging balls.
Unlike his usual out swinging deliveries with the new ball, his reverse swinging deliveries shape inwards, increasing the chances of an LBW or a clean bowled.
Batsmen like Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Wriddhiman Saha may have to bear the brunt of Steyn's rapid reverse swing bowling most of the times considering the period of play when the reverse swing normally comes into the picture.
Dale Steyn's presence could work wonders for the South Africans and for the Indians it could pose a threat, and his participation would make the tournament even more engaging.