Sizzling, searing, scorching South Africa’s Steyn!
Standing only at a decent 5’10”, Dale Steyn or more fittingly the ‘Steyn Gun’ was by no means one of those typically towering, imposing pacer nor was he the bulkiest, mighty figures whom the batsmen dread as they see them running towards them with a ball in their hands, but dread doesn’t even cover the blanket of fearful emotions that Steyn made his batsmen go through, worse if you were a tailender. God protect and bless your ribs, wrists, and toes.
His action was simple and proper, and in this simplicity lay his poetry. He ran – and how well he ran, how effortless, how smooth, in such rhythm and with such flair – with a ball (of fire) in his hand and then jumped, landed, and delivered the delivery, often curling away from the batter at a scorching pace. The experience of facing him would have been nightmarish for the batter, albeit, in the press, the poor chap would have to act strong and professional, and lie stating that this fever dream was merely “challenging”.
There’s no speck of doubt that Steyn was a technically sound pacer, but, at the same time, he was also an extremely emotional bowler. At most times, he was a hassle-creator for the batter and Graeme Smith’s South Africa’s principal wicket threat. Then there were spells, bouts, periods, patches of play where for one reason or the other, Steyn would get emotionally charged and that fire, that anger, that desire would be so clearly visible in his eyes and in his smirky smile. So often, it was during these passionate stretches of play that he escalated to a higher level, actualized his potential to the greatest degree, and existed in a league of his own. And once he was in that zone, his trademark downward-fist-thumping celebration was never far away.
His numbers are phenomenal – 699 international wickets, 439 of them in Test cricket at an inhumane average of 22.9 – and yet, they don’t seem enough. The reason for that is that the last few years of his genius were snatched away from us due to recurrent injuries. In an alternate universe, Steyn would have gone head-to-head with James Anderson. Still, we should be nothing but glad that we got to behold his prime years, when on his day and on most other days, he was the best contemporary fast-bowler in the whole wide world. A true, inspiring, master of this complex skill.