Cape Town – Dale Steyn was thoughtfully “rested” the last
time the Proteas played a one-day international series … now it is time to
return him to the 50-overs frontline in the interests of both the player and
the greater national cause.
When the Phalaborwa Express was omitted from the SA side
which played in the off-season triangular against West Indies and Australia in
the Caribbean – they failed to make the final – the not unreasonable argument
from the selectors was that the veteran was being preserved for Test duty,
traditionally his most illustrious suit, and the eager quest for the country to
return to higher terrain in that fold.
“He is vital to our ambitions in the longest format … (but)
he is certainly not out of the ODI picture and could well feature in the home
series against Australia,” convener Linda Zondi was quoted as saying in early
Now those very ODIs against the old enemy – five home
matches starting on September 30 – loom larger and provide the next significant
challenge for South Africa after a limb-loosener, with respect, against Ireland
at Benoni a few days earlier.
There are several compelling reasons why Steyn should feature
for at least part of that series against the currently No 1-ranked Australians,
not least being that he is earnestly seeking to up his work-rate in preparation
for the Test tour Down Under – in November – which follows.
Soon after a welcome five-wicket haul to help secure both
the second Test and series against New Zealand at Centurion, Steyn admitted
that he needed to get “as many overs under the belt as I can” to be at optimum
capability for the three Tests in Australia, where the seemingly resurgent
Proteas will attempt to win a third away series on the trot against those foes
and keep climbing back up the rankings.
A judicious role in the ODIs could be just the right
medicine in that regard, with SuperSport commentator and former Proteas
team-mate Shaun Pollock suggesting he play perhaps three of those fixtures.
“Net practice is totally over-rated for a player of his quality,”
reminded Pollock, adding that he felt Steyn (match figures 8/99 at SuperSport
Park) had produced his best bowling in around 10 Tests.
Especially having come off a period marked by an unusual
saga of injury setbacks, and with the great paceman hardly a greenhorn at 33, a
delicate balance needs to be struck between deploying him too much across the
codes, and cotton-woolling him excessively, with the risk of rustiness creeping
So Pollock’s suggestion of a selected trio of ODIs for Steyn
against Australia – the series is played, in order, at Centurion, Johannesburg,
Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town – seems to strike the correct balance.
If that occurs, it would also provide in-form Steyn with the
opportunity to score a mental point or two – no guarantees, of course, in the
increasingly pyrotechnic world of one-day cricket! -- over a few Aussie batsmen
he should later encounter in the Tests.
There is a school of thought, and it is not a completely daft
one, that the lean strike bowler should focus almost exclusively henceforth on
the Test arena he so treasures, to enable him to prolong his career there for
as long as possible.
Also to take into account is that by the time the next World
Cup comes around, in England in 2019, Steyn would turn 36 in the midst of it,
so it is a bit of a long shot (though not impossible) to expect him to still be
involved in ODI fare by then; new blood has to be at least partially on the
wise men’s minds for that.
But his natural competitive instincts also remain to want to
represent his country wherever and whenever feasible, regardless of the
It would also be naïve to jettison such a class act from
50-overs cricket too prematurely, given that the Proteas still desperately need
to mend that lengthy, general ICC major tournament bogey -- and there are
opportunities long before the next CWC.
The first is next year’s ICC Champions Trophy, also to be
staged in England and Wales, in early June.
Given its scheduling in the reasonably early UK summer,
former national captain Kepler Wessels is just one pundit who reminded that
“seam conditions” ought to be prevalent – a perfect scenario for a bowler of
After inquiry, Sport24 awaited confirmation from Zondi on
Monday on when the Proteas’ ODI squad would probably be revealed.
It makes sense for Dale Willem Steyn’s name to be attached
to it …
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writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing