There was sadness mixed with frustration which crept up among the fans as Dale Steyn once again left the field after suffering a bruised heel at Newlands against India. The Question started to circulate, was this the last time when Test Cricket had witnessed one of the most fearsome bowlers the game has ever seen? Does Steyn has enough left in the tank to make another comeback?
Dale Steyn is not just a bowler for cricket fans; he is an emotion, a feeling that pure fast bowler still exists in the game of Cricket which has changed considerably in past 15 years or so. This is the reason why he is one of those rare cricketers who are not only loved, respected and admired only by their countrymen but by the experts and fans all over the world.
In his sparkling career which now is almost a decade and half old, Steyn has touched various highs and suffered many lows with defeats in the 2011 and 2015 World Cup worth mentioning. However, in last 3 years he has spent more time on the bench than on the field, and after going through rigorous of international cricket for such a long time, his body seems to have refused to match his willingness to play the longer format of cricket.
The problem for Steyn and South Africa have been that whenever it looked that Steyn will be finally back on the field overcoming his struggle with injuries, the expectations have been hurt badly. While it has taken him months to work hard on his fitness to return to the field, it only took a day or two to suffer another injury.
Till 2015, Steyn was going all guns blazing, and only a year back he blew Australia by a hostile spell of fast bowling at Port Elizabeth. He also expressed his wish to reach to 100 test milestone same year on Bangladesh tour, but it was the start of the decline for arguably the finest bowler of his generation.
Four months later on a crucial tour of India where South Africa lost by 0-3, Steyn suffered a hamstring injury in the first test after an impressive outing in the first innings and was out for almost two months. His absence was dearly felt in the series where Proteas found hard to survive in some of the harshest conditions.
Steyn returned against England on Boxing day only to get himself injured again, this time he was done by a shoulder injury which ruled him out for three months just to make a comeback for limited over fixtures in March 2016.
In Aug 2016, he played Test Cricket against New Zealand, and three months later he was on the plane for the Australian tour where his shoulder collapsed again in the first test at Perth at a time when South Africa needed him most.
The image of Steyn sitting in players’ balcony strapped with bandages was painful for fans around the world. The nature of the injury could have broken any sportsperson, but anyone who knows Steyn and his desire to play Test Cricket ( He once said “ I was born to play Test Cricket” ) wasn’t surprised when he decided to undergo shoulder surgery to once again return to the field.
It took him 13 months to get himself fit again, a duration in which he worked hard off the field day and night to get his shoulder 100% fine. As a result of hard work, he was fit again and was immediately selected for the first test against India on the new year.
Steyn’s return to the field after a gap of 14 months gap gave fans a sigh of relief, but all this was shortlived as he could survive barely for an innings. This time another part ( his heels) of his body refused to cooperate with his willpower. By the end of the day, it was confirmed that he was out of India series.
There were already speculations that he might call it a day regarding five-day cricket after the Australian series but the way he has been struggling to be in the park has raised multiple questions.
Is this the last time when cricket has seen the most fearsome bowler of this generation in whites? Or he has enough left in the tank for one more comeback? Or is it time for ace paceman to say goodbye to Test Cricket and focus solely on his goal of World Cup 2019, for one last shot at glory. All these questions might be answered by the time Aussies leave South Africa in April this year.