Dale Steyn, an exemplary speed merchant, bids adieu

Dale Steyn retires from cricket, a sport the South African giant adorned with finesse and fire.

August 31, 2021 04:29 pm | Updated November 27, 2021 04:08 pm IST - Chennai

Steyn had retired from Test cricket in 2019. File

Steyn had retired from Test cricket in 2019. File

Many summers ago, a domestic match was in progress at Bengaluru’s M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. Javagal Srinath, one of India’s greatest ever fast bowlers, dropped in and he was then donning a freshly minted ICC match referee avatar. He sauntered towards the assembled press corps and gushed about a fellow purveyor of speed.

The name was Dale Steyn but those were early days for the South African spearhead. Yet Srinath was convinced: “Steyn has an excellent action, smooth, and superb control. He is the one to watch out for.” This wasn’t just the ‘Fast Bowlers Club’ on overdrive, this was a genuine observation. Since that day in 2006, Steyn, despite those odd injury-enforced-breaks, showed that he was one of the finest exponents of scorching pace allied with intelligence.

High on grace

But time flies, limbs tire and the greatest have to step aside. At 38, with an enviable record to boot — 439 Test wickets, 196 ODI scalps and 64 victims in Twenty20Is, Steyn bid goodbye to his glorious career on Tuesday. “Today I officially retire from the game I love the most. Bitter sweet but grateful,” he mentioned in a note high on grace. The last mentioned being his innate trait even if on the field he was a much-feared opponent.

Steyn could scythe through batting line-ups, hustling the batsmen, rushing them into mistakes while stumps cart-wheeled, slips exulted and pads got ruffled. There was Allan Donald in the past and Steyn was perhaps his natural successor with a smooth run-up yielding to a fine load-up and precision release.

His duels with leading batsmen was one for the cricketing gods. There was one against Sachin Tendulkar during the 2011 Cape Town Test. This was a high-octane battle between Steyn’s fire and Tendulkar’s ice. Steyn did all that he could, probing, looking for flaws and the maestro countered everything adroitly. Tendulkar scored a ton but that passage of play between him and the South African ace was riveting.

Years later, the Steyn-AB de Villiers battles in the Indian Premier League held an allure. Steyn emerged second best but de Villiers wouldn’t say a negative word about his South African compatriot. Such was the respect Steyn had within the Proteas dressing room. He quit Tests two years ago to extend his limited-overs career but with COVID-19 affecting schedules, a fitting swansong never happened. Steyn will be missed even if batsmen heave a sigh of relief.


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