South Africa, Africa XI, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Titans, Deccan Chargers, Cape Cobras, Brisbane Heat, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Gujarat Lions, Jamaica Tallawahs, Glamorgan, South Africa A, Cape Town Knight Riders, South African Invitation XI, Hampshire, Cape Town Blitz, Glasgow Giants, Melbourne Stars, Islamabad United
A predator’s eyes, an intimidating sprint to the crease, and a blur of a cherry, barely perceptible to the eye, getting past the bat before the mental faculties can process it, and the sight of mangled and cartwheeling stumps in the aftermath of the batsman’s demise encapsulate the phenomenon of Dale Steyn. One of the more enthralling sights of Test cricket in the 21st century has been Steyn running in full-throttle and clocking 150+, shaping the signature outswinger away from a leg-stump line at will and opening up the batsman’s stance to hit the top of off-stump. A classical front-on action with a release hell-bent upon landing it on a length, furious pace to match it, and a clever mind to complement the brawn, Dale Steyn has been one of the most complete fast bowlers of his generation. Steyn made his Test debut in 2004, along with a fellow rookie by the name of AB de Villiers, after he impressed Ray Jennings with his raw pace and stamina, in the home series against England after a combined experience of just 7 first-class games. A humbling loss on debut set him back as he picked up just 3 wickets in the game, although it included a ripper of an outswinger to knock over Michael Vaughan in the second innings. After a tally of just 8 wickets in the 3-Test series, Steyn failed to make a significant impact and was dropped from the side. After a slew of impressive first-class performances, Steyn continued to be in the radar and made a comeback in 2006 for the home series against New Zealand. Wary of not getting another chance, Steyn made his mark immediately with a five-for in his first Test, and bowled with more accuracy and vigour than the rookie 2 years earlier. He picked up 16 wickets in 3 Test matches and tormented the Kiwis with his wrecker-in-chief, Makhaya Ntini. Steyn continued to wreck oppositions and was named one of South Africa’s five cricketers of the year. Despite the honor of this accolade, due to the competition for fast bowlers in the side, Steyn found himself out of the reckoning at the beginning of 2007, citing the reason that he did not possess the intensity required off a fast bowler. Upon his second coming, Steyn was now a full-time version of the monster we had only glimpsed over the years. When another opportunity came knocking, an away tour in Pakistan, Steyn bumped up his pace and fizzled out nine Pakistani batsmen who didn’t know what had struck them. In the subsequent home series against New Zealand, Steyn picked up two 10-wicket hauls and nailed his spot in the side. The one moment that really made the world sit up was his bouncer to Craig Cummin, who was hospitalised after a bouncer from a rampant Dale Steyn crashed into his helmet. After 3 years of ousters from the side and an anxious wait in the fringes, it was the age of Dale Steyn. There was no looking back after that. In his prime as a fast bowler, Steyn picked up a scarcely believable 86 wickets in 14 games in 2008, earning him the prestigious ICC Player of the Year award in 2008. After stalwarts like Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock called it a day, Steyn went on to form a lethal opening partnership with Morne Morkel. With all the seaming goodness from a giraffe’s height from one end, and the rapid swinging thunderbolts from another, the two formed, arguably, the most fearsome bowling pair-up of the generation. Steyn’s climb up to the higher echelon of fast bowling was alarming, particularly in statistical terms, as he rubbed shoulders with fast-bowling legends across generations. For instance, he became the fastest Protea to 100 Test wickets and ended up with 249 wickets at the end of his 48th Test, second only to Dennis Lillee in the race for the fastest bowler to 250 Test wickets. His Test strike-rate is particularly astonishing, and remains second only to George Lohmann of England, who played way back in the 19th century. He was the fourth South African bowler to reach the 300-wicket mark as well, after Pollock, Ntini, and Donald, and was easily the fastest to the landmark out of the four. Steyn’s crowning achievement, however, will not be a World Cup triumph or a glitzy T20 league win; it’ll be his contribution in a South African Test side that dominated overseas in a generation when home series were starting to become more and more one-sided. After a decimation of Australia in the world’s toughest backyard in 2009, he produced an outstanding spell of reverse-swing in the away tour against India to pick-up 7-51 on a flat wicket in Nagpur, to deliver a South African victory as the visitors went 1-0 up in the series, only for India to make a comeback and tie the series in Kolkata with a thrilling last-session victory. South Africa went onto dominate in the tour of England in 2012 and won 2-0, as Steyn unsurprisingly topped the wicket charts with 15 scalps in 3 games. At the pinnacle of their Test game, South Africa received the Test Championship mace after this victory and became the highest-ranked Test side in the world, taking over from England. After almost 6 years at the peak of his powers, Steyn’s body was starting to break down, unfortunately for South Africa, in the middle of another ICC tournament (the Champion’s Trophy of 2013) as he was ruled out with a groin strain. His tryst with injuries continued, with a fractured rib, a side-strain, and multiple hamstring strains. However, amidst all the injury concerns, even the crippled warrior managed to be a force on the international stage. In late 2013, when India toured South Africa, Steyn went through the longest wicketless phase in the first Test at Johannesburg, but came back to skittle the Indians with a five-for in Durban as South Africa clinched the series 1-0. In the subsequent home series against Australia, Steyn bowled a phenomenal spell in the second Test but an injury midway through the 3rd made him a liability as Australia went on to win the series 2-1, highlighting the extent of Steyn’s performances on South Africa’s fortunes. He was also fit in time for the series in Sri Lanka as he played a major role in South Africa’s first series win in Sri Lanka in more than 20 years - another feather in the cap for Steyn and South Africa, another away Test series triumph. His colossal achievements in Test cricket and South Africa’s reputation in ICC tournaments often understates Steyn’s effectiveness in white-ball cricket. He has prioritised Test cricket over the years but has bowled in some key moments in the limited-overs format too. Steyn has been a key bowler for his franchises in the Indian Premier League as well, churning out wonderful bowling spells, first with Bangalore and later for the Hyderabad franchise. He was also retained by the Hyderabad team during the 2014 auction. In late 2015, Steyn was in the first XI on the tour to India, but he picked up a groin injury in the first Test, and missed the rest of the series. Consequently, South Africa’s reign in away Test series broke after 9 incredible years as they were steamrolled by India 3-0 in a low-scoring tour full of dustbowls. Steyn had another plethora of injuries as he missed most of the series against England, but made a comeback in mid-2016 for the series against New Zealand, before breaking down with an injured shoulder during the Australia tour. Steyn went on to break the 400-wicket barrier in 2017, and equalled Shaun Pollock’s tally of 421 Test wickets by the end of the short 2-Test away series against Sri Lanka in 2018, as spinners made merry on two custom-made dustbowls. Earlier that year, he got injured after the first Test against India as South Africa went on to win 2-1, and unfortunately couldn’t be in the field to celebrate South Africa’s first home series win against Australia after readmission amidst the chaotic ball-tampering controversy. The fearsome bowler is in his mid-thirties and is perhaps in the twilight of his career. With his 30s being marred with injuries, he is recuperating from yet another one, as he looks to sign off from Test cricket with one last hurrah, and perhaps dreams of a comeback for the World Cup of 2019 too, with the objective of finally handing South Africa an ICC tournament win, shake off the chokers’ tag for good, and perhaps execute one final chainsaw celebration without fearing for his shoulder. The disappointment of having missed out the 2019 World Cup made Steyn realise that he has to pick up his playing days going forward and hence he decided to retire from Test cricket as he had an eye on the T20 World Cup in 2020. He signed up in the Big Bash League 2019-20 for the Melbourne Stars and continued his alliance with Cape Town Blitz in the Mzansi Super League. World Cup through the years.. When Dale Steyn and World Cup are mentioned in the same sentence then the only thing that comes to mind is Grant Elliott smashing a six off the penultimate ball of the match to knock South Africa out. A veteran of two World Cups but Steyn has not quite lived up to his billing in the mega events. Yes, he averages 23.39 and has picked up 23 wickets in 14 games, but he has gone missing when South Africa have needed him the most. In almost same number of matches and across two World Cups, Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel have got more wickets than South Africa's premier fast bowler. South Africa have been knocked out twice in two World Cups by New Zealand - 2011 in a quarterfinal and 2015 in a semifinal. In 2011, Steyn picked up 2 for 42 in his 10 overs but was outbowled by Tahir (2/35) and Morkel (3/46) on a slow surface. In the next edition, he had gone for 65 in his 8 overs and was still entrusted to bowl the final over with 12 to defend, he failed to do so as the pair of Daniel Vettori and Elliott finished the game with a ball to spare. This upcoming 2019 edition gives Steyn one last chance to prove his mettle on the world stage. He has not played much cricket of late but like before he does not have the burden of the leading the pace attack. The job for Steyn would be that of a mentor to the likes of Rabada and Ngidi. However, an injury during the warm-ups robbed him of his last chance.