Dale Steyn has had a somewhat subdued series in Australia, and while he hopes to make good in the final Test at Perth, the Proteas’ pace ace knows it will take a team effort to go home with the honours. He also hopes to reignite his spark and go beyond the average. By ANT SIMS.
For somebody of his stature, Dale Steyn has had a fairly quiet series in Australia. By statistical standards, it’s been something of a disaster. He’s taken just five wickets and his bowling average is over 50, miles beyond his overall average of 23.98. South Africa and Australia are deadlocked in their Test series at 0-0, and with just one Test left and everything to play for, the Proteas need Steyn to fire. And if history is anything to go by, he will.
The last time he toured Australia, he took 18 wickets, ten of them in one game in Melbourne. The Proteas’ pace ace is hoping that throwing wrenches in the gears will help him find that extra bit of magic which seems to have dimmed a little the last few Tests. The extra pressure, and perhaps the extra anticipation which goes along with the final Test, is definitely something which ignites something special in the fast bowler.
"There’s more want, there's more need; it's all come down to these last five days, so I will do everything I can do give that extra push to help us win the series,” said Steyn.
The 29-year-old is the number one-ranked Test bowler in the world, and while he is hailed by many as one of the best of his generation – and while many might think he is off-colour when he’s not picking five wickets an innings – Steyn is coy about the accolades bestowed upon him.
"We're all just human. I think I've said it before; I don't think I'm the best bowler in the world, I don't think I'm the most skillful bowler in the world. There are bowlers who are more skillful than me. I'm just fortunate enough to play almost every game for South Africa. Hopefully I can take some wickets in the next game; it's what I'm employed to do and it's what I love doing,” said the quick.
It’s a far cry from the unrelenting and aggressive player who steps over the boundary rope whenever there’s a match on, but such is the nature of Steyn. He wants to be the best, and while he’ll do everything to make sure he becomes the best, he’ll never rest on his laurels and always keep the bigger picture in mind. He knows that the last Test will take a team effort. Australia has thrown the kitchen sink at South Africa and vice versa, but nobody has been able to tip the scales.
"It's all come down to this last game, and it will take a team's contribution to win the series, but I want to do well,” Steyn said.
“Why would I want to come to Australia and be below average or average? You always want to come here and take five-fors, just like as a batter you want to come here and score hundreds under immense pressure against one of the best teams in one of the most difficult places to tour in the world. But I want us to win the series. It's not often a team gets a chance to beat Australia twice in their own backyard, we have the chance to do that.”
When Steyn is fired up and at full tilt, there is nobody better in the world. His passion for bowling fast and for being the best resonates in his bones while his boiling blood circulates, spurring on one of the most terrifying sights in modern cricket. He might not be overly tall, he might be a relaxed, calm, approachable guy off the field, but he’s not one to one to stay down when the going gets tough, and neither are the Proteas. They’ve copped a lot flak for their performances in Australia, but they’ve somehow managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat every single time and Steyn reckons the visitors have a chance.
"We want to win the series. We didn't come down to Australia to draw. We've played below what we are capable of, but Australia have thrown everything they can at us and they still haven't beaten us. If we can play to what our potential is, I think we will go home 1-nil."
Steyn’s pre-match ritual usually involves blasting Rise Against into his ears. The bashing of the drums, the plucky guitars and the scowling voice of lead vocalist Tim McIlrath gets him pumped up. In one of their songs, entitled Ready to Fall, McIlrath talks about following your dreams, reaching the top of somewhere and not having anywhere else to go but down.
A part of the song goes like this: “I know I've been gone for what seems like forever, but I'm here now waiting to convince you that I'm not a ghost or a stranger, but closer than you think. Wings won't take me, heights don't faze me, but don’t look down and take a step.”
Finding new vigour once at the top and harnessing it to break the glass ceiling is one of Steyn’s specialities, and Perth might very well be just another step in his way to ever-increasing greatness. DM
Photo: South Africa's Dale Steyn celebrates after taking a successful catch for the dismissal of Australia's Rob Quiney during the first cricket test match at the Gabba in Brisbane November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Aman Sharma