by Kaushik Narayanan
With the influence of T20 cricket, cricket has predominantly become a batsman’s game. Shorter boundaries, rules favouring the batsmen, flatter pitches and big blades, have effectively damaged the “fear factor” the fast bowlers have had in the past. Spinners have managed to survive in this batsmen oriented cricketing world with their mystery and variations, but the fast bowlers across the world have taken the pounding more often than not. Amidst the generation of great batsmen and poor bowling conditions in general, there is a fast bowler– Dale Steyn.
One may argue that he has been gifted with superb bowling conditions present in South Africa, but the fact that Dale Steyn has been fearsome in even in flat sub-continent pitches, cannot be overlooked.
Two of his most recallable performance includes a sublime 7-51 against India in Nagpur in 2010, and more recently, a brilliant opening spell of 6-8 in Abu Dhabi. The former performance was famous for his excellent display of reverse swing against the famed Indian batting line-up, which would have made even the likes of Wasim Akram and Imran Khan proud. The latter performance was a devastating opening spell against the in-experience batting line-up of Pakistan. It was a great display of conventional-swing bowling.
Great players not only perfrom when the team is winning–they are at their bestwhen the chips are down. And such performances are hard to come when the opposition looks all set, and there is nothing to offer from the pitch. But again, Steyn has re-asserted his call for being called as a great with some of match-turning performances, with the 2nd test against Australia being the most recent example. Australia were cruising towards an unlikely record chase, with the scoreline reading 150 odd runs, with just one wicket lost. And. then, the Steyn-gun struck. Bowling in with steam and fire, he knocked out the Australian middle order, which included the wickets of Michael Clarke and Steven Smith in successive balls.
The likes of James Anderson and Mitchell Johnson are excellent bowlers, but when not in form, they can be really ineffective.. But, Dale Steyn’s greatest ability is to come back stronger after a poor game. After losing his number 1 ranking to Philander citing an ordinary match against India, he came back with fury and knocked out India out of contention in the following match. Now, that is something which we don’t get to see often. Such performances gain even more respect, and this is why Dale Steyn is special.
Holding the World No1 ranking for 4 years consecutively is no mean feat, and he still has a hand over it, after losing it briefly to his teammate. But irrespective of the rankings, the impact he has had over his opposition cannot be expressed in words. With 4-5 years still left in him, he might have a shot at Glenn Mcgrath’s record. No matter what happens from now, he’s already established himself as one of the greatest fast bowlers, this game has ever seen.