“Yond Steyn has a lean and hungry look… such men are dangerous,” Julius Caesar would have warned his teammates, if he had been a cricket buff.
Dale ‘Gale' Steyn has blown the best of batsmen away by the bagful. The storm this South African stirs up has left trails of destruction across continents. Economy of expression marks the smooth run-up and delivery, the frail frame a deceptive front for the pace he packs.
“The late outswing he generates that often exceeds 140, is his hallmark,” says V.V.S. Laxman, who ranks him among the finest fast bowlers he has faced. “His body language not only reveals aggression, but the best he gives to the cause, regardless of the team he turns out for, or the state of the match. His celebration after Sunday's defeat of Royal Challengers Bangalore reveals how much pride he takes in his performances,” the wristy Indian batsman adds.
You wouldn't see in his eyes the batsman-hating quality of his forerunner Allan Donald though. Felling batsmen doesn't thrill him; rattling the timber does.
So the odd steepler he deploys aims to destabilise rather than disable them, evident from the exit he engineered of Chris Gayle. Not one to psyche batsmen with stares or glares, one swift look sizes them up soon enough.
Mumbai Indians' T. Suman, who as an opener has handled him in full flow, has an interesting anecdote to tell. After the Protean paceman picked up a sharp caught and bowled chance with a one-handed catch to dismiss the ex-Deccan Chargers batsman, their next meeting was in a hotel lift.
“Dale, the chances I get to play for Mumbai Indians are limited. And if you take catches like that, they'll become nil,” said Suman. To which, the tyro's response was definitely not typical of his tribe, “I'm so sorry man.”
The short fuse that sets his tearaway tribe apart doesn't flare up when catches are spilt of his bowling. A look of resignation is all he'll give away, when such foul-ups happen, as with the Deccan Chargers. With poor back up from the other end or his fielders, he seems the right man in the wrong team, despite which he has returned some stunning figures this season.
“Steyn is perhaps a one-of-a-kind fast bowler,” Suman continues, “for not only is he super quick but a fantastic fielder too. More dangerous with the new ball, he tries to take wickets rather than contain batsmen.”
The rare stain on Steyn's reputation was smeared by A.B. de Villiers, who'd have watched him from perhaps the beat vantage position when keeping wickets to the speedster for South Africa, Africa XI, Northerns and Titans. ‘ABD' would thus have read the latter like a book, but should be among a miniscule minority to take such liberties.
For, if his sheer speed doesn't beat them, Steyn's swing will.