February 24, 2010

Old-school Dale

Hunting and fishing are still part of his life but the rawness and inconsistency have dropped away and Steyn has emerged as one of the best fast bowlers in the world
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Dale Steyn likes fishing and hunting and bowling fast. In his time he has caught a crocodile, shot an impala, and caused plenty of batsmen to cower. To him it is all the same - just that he was obliged in the latter activity to learn a few lessons about respectability and other dubious restraints. They don't have match referees in the veldt, or over-rates or pampered batsmen or all these rules and regulations. They don't take any prisoners either, don't ask permission for this or that, don't bother about appearances. And at the end of the long day, as the sun sets, there is fish on the fire or meat being cooked; flies hovering, survival and freedom intertwined. Steyn is at home in that world. He's a mixture of Huckleberry Finn and Harold Larwood.

Steyn belongs to the great tradition of fast bowlers emerging from the back and beyond. In England the fast men used to emerge from the mining towns and working traditions of Nottingham and Yorkshire. They drank pints and had strong backs earned by hard labour. In Australia they came from the torrid, remote outback. On the subcontinent they were raised mostly in the rugged north with its mountains and warriors. In the Caribbean they were the products of hundreds of years of slavery and the strength and athleticism that it unwittingly instilled.

Of course it is a cliché. Not every fast bowler fits neatly into the pattern. Not every boxer was raised on the streets of Mexico or Brooklyn. Some of them were driven to pace by their bodies. Many of them become sophisticates, though Jeff Thomson has been a determined exception. Even so, the combination of youthful vigour and lack of alternatives produces more quick bowlers than any other. Something is needed to persuade a man to charge 30 yards to the crease, hurl down a delivery with all his might and then suffer as some over-praised wretch elegantly raises his bat and allows the ball to pass or some clown in the cordon drops a sitter or some dope of an umpire calls no-ball because the foot had strayed an inch over the popping crease. Often they repeat the transaction 100 times a day and afterwards are rewarded not with a soothing beer but an ice bath.

Something is needed to make this life worth living. Partly it is desperation. What else is a man to do? Nowadays money is a factor. Hell, a speedster can make a million playing Twenty20. Never have the rewards per ball been as high for genuine fast bowlers. Mostly, though, it is the satisfaction that keeps them going. Fast bowlers like the feeling of speed, enjoy the look of alarm in the eyes of opponents, relish the respect they can sense in the rooms and in the stands, rejoice in the feeling of the ball thumping into ribs or distant gloves. They are the heavyweight champions of the game. Of course, it is satisfying. As the years pass, fast bowlers start to think about taking wickets. Captains and coaches talk about things like averages and percentages and dot balls and maiden overs. They don't say as much about blood or bruises. Maturity brings a second rush. Glenn McGrath and Malcolm Marshall count among the greatest constructors of wickets the game has known. Watching them at work was a cricketing education.

But it does not start like that. Pace bowling is essentially primitive. In the past, speed alone might at any rate have accounted for the tailenders. Now all and sundry wear helmets and whatnot, and fast bowlers need to learn new tricks, like reverse swing, slower balls and so forth. Twenty20 has been their saviour. Ask Shaun Tait and Dirk Nannes. Now the trade knows it has a future, and a price.

Steyn is a pace bowler from the old school: raw, slightly demented, confronting, loud on the field and soft-spoken off it. He was born and mostly raised in Phalaborwa, a town of some 130,000 folk, located in neglected Limpopo. As far as his current craft is concerned, it was the ideal place to begin. Phalaborwa means "better than the south". It's a rugged location for tough men. Prima donnas and toffs are thin on the ground. Latte is unknown. It is an old mining town where tribesmen, and later the intruders, have been smelting copper and iron ore for 1500 years. Thousands of years ago a volcanic eruption bestowed upon the area a vast hole begging to be mined. Naturally the locals obliged. Nor has the resource been exhausted. Steyn's father worked in the pits, and he was expected to follow in his footsteps. Adventure and ambition decreed otherwise.

Typical of the neighbourhood in many ways, Steyn was also a little different. He wanted to be a photographer, and was prepared to travel. Although happy at home, he was keen to attend boarding schools, and it took the pangs of a crestfallen family to bring him back to the nest. From the outset he knew he wanted to break out. Just that it took him years to realise that fast bowling was his most obvious gift and his opportunity.

And so Steyn headed south in search of advancement. Whereas most fast bowlers take the scene by storm, his progress was fitful. He had little understanding of the activity. Nor did he know anything about professionalism. Heck, he did not have any adequate boots - he borrowed Shaun Pollock's in his first few matches in national colours. He just charged in and let go. His potential could not be missed but he lacked the skills needed to succeed.

For years Steyn's promise outstripped his achievements. He played for provinces and counties and his country in various forms and was dropped almost as often as he was chosen. His bowling was hit or miss. Irresistible at his sharpest, he was expensive the rest of the time. He was naïve. Rhythm came and went mysteriously. It was a frustrating time for all concerned. Steyn sweated and occasionally soared. Fast outswingers count among the deadliest deliveries in the repertoire. But he was inconsistent.

Something is needed to persuade a man to charge 30 yards to the crease, hurl down a delivery with all his might and then suffer as some over-praised wretch elegantly raises his bat and allows the ball to pass or some clown in the cordon drops a sitter or some dope of an umpire calls no-ball

Gradually he learnt to harness his ability and use his wits. He learnt about his action, and putting overs and spells together, and old balls and new balls, and using the crease and all the tricks that others absorb on the climb. He learnt to bowl on green tops and feather beds, in India and England, in 20-over and five-day cricket. Slowly he added the understanding required to maintain a high level of performance.

Now the speedster is in his pomp and stands acclaimed as the best fast bowler around. Despite the patchiness of his early years his strike-rate is better than anyone else's barring George Lohmann and Shane Bond (among those who have played 10 or more Tests). He has taken wickets in India and Australia, has been at his best against the best and in the most demanding conditions.

Some players, though, cannot be contained by comparisons and records. At heart Steyn is a match player. He thrives in the heat of battle, and proved as much with his two most notable performances, impressive contributions that led to thrilling triumphs.

About a year ago, South Africa arrived in Melbourne with a 1-0 lead in the series, a position secured with a superb fightback in Perth. Despite Steyn's five first-innings wickets, all appeared lost at the MCG as the Proteas subsided to 141 for 6 in pursuit of Australia's 394. Within 48 hours the visitors had coasted to victory. Steyn played his part, putting on with a partnership with JP Duminy that brought 180 runs. All told, he faced 191 balls and scored 76 runs. For hour upon hour he refused to budge. It was an astonishingly resolute and patient effort. Nor was that all. He took another five wickets in the second innings as the Australians wilted, and finally was able to relax as the batsmen knocked off the runs. For the first time, South Africa had beaten the Aussies on their own patch. Steyn was nominated as Man of the Series, an award he has collected on three occasions.

Steyn's second decisive contribution came in equally august company. His burst in Nagpur a fortnight ago confirmed his adaptability and stature. Again it was a showdown between the two highest-ranked teams in the game. Again Steyn was predatory. Bowling fast and straight and using inswing with the old ball and away-swing with the new ball, Steyn took 7 for 51 in the first dig and followed with another sizzling spell as India were beaten by an innings. Confirming his temperament, now wearing coloured clothes, and using the bat as cannily as he had used the ball, he almost took his team to an improbable success in the opening ODI in Jaipur.

Altogether Steyn has travelled a long way from his hometown. Not that he ever quite left. To the contrary he remains a bushie to his bootstraps. After all, Phalaborwa has other attractions, with a lot more appeal to him than digging metal. It offers nature reserves and rivers where Steyn and his ilk can hunt and fish at their leisure, where they can admire the majesty of the animal kingdom at nearby Kruger Park and generally immerse themselves in the life of solitude that suits them - life without trappings or pretence or parameters or illusions. Steyn's heart is vast but it belongs in the outback. For him the glory lies not in shattered stumps but in the integrity and beauty of nature. After the Australians had been beaten he went back to home and hunting. Probably he lingered too long. South Africa's defeat in the return series was partly due to his loss of form. His lesson was clear. As a bowler Steyn has to be nurtured. It has been the story of his career.

Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SatyajitM on March 6, 2010, 6:59 GMT

    @Nocturnal_guy, we know who you are referring to :-) However, you have got it all wrong. Roebuck is referring to batsman clan in general and not one specific batsman. Roebuck uses colorful language and you need not take it all seriously (on top of that if you read in between the lines it could become very misleading). About that specific cricketer, Roebuck has very high regard (check his last article on him http://www.cricinfo.com/sachinat20/content/story/434360.html).

    @cabinet96, you or I may not have problem with hunting, but the animals do have ;-) On a more serious note, we in India are suffering the effects of uncontrolled hunting in the first half of 20th century. While we humans, have occupied most part of land (which is irreversible) it's importand that other animals are allowed to survive in their den. The balance of nature must not be destroyed further.

  • Nocturnal_guy on March 5, 2010, 12:39 GMT

    Man…you do have a point there. "Something is needed to persuade a man to charge 30 yards to the crease, hurl down a delivery with all his might and then suffer as some over-praised WRETCH elegantly raises his bat and allows the ball to pass…."

    One doesn't need too much of an effort to understand who the batsman Mr Roebuck seems to be referring to here. And I can bet this guy doesn't have a heart as "vast as Steyn's". No wonder this fellow had asked the government to wave off Octroi Duty on his imported Ferrari….remember!

    Hey! But they tell me that a certain batsman helps an Orphanage - two sides of the same coin should I say.

  • Bobby_Talyarkhan on March 4, 2010, 22:12 GMT

    @Dougwensam what i take seriously is my love of cricket and what i detest is those who exploit cricket lovers to promote their own agendas. Roebuck is a seriously reactionary and conservative hack who peddles the most laughably risible stereotypes about races and cultures - the "warrior pathan", the "atheletic black descended from slaves", the "straight talking Boer", etc. etc. that sort of thing - to cover up for his completely inadequate historical and cultural knowledge. These are little more than the wet dreams of repressed public school boys and Roebuck is a veritable legatee of the Wilbur Smith school of writing for the intellectually flatulent and morally incontinent. Anyone who regards such buffoonery as a "harmless bit of jolly good fun" is on the way to foresaking their critical human faculties and that is not the level of cricketing debate I want to regress to.

  • Amol_Gh on March 4, 2010, 7:34 GMT

    It's a Common Myth that McGrath was a fast bowler. In my opinion, he was NOT. Allan Donald, Waqar Younis were the LAST EFFECTIVE CLASSIC fast bowlers the game has seen. Bret Lee was one but was NOT effective in tests.

  • on March 3, 2010, 16:11 GMT

    I love Steyn too.. he is fast, swings the ball and relies more on his craft rather than unnecessary verbal chitchat... unlike the Aussies of yore... and boy does he look hungry...! I hope he inspires other quickies in SA and the world... there's another reason I like him... he kinda looks like Daniel Craig.. the Bond... hmm... that makes him even more likable !

  • Amol_Gh on March 3, 2010, 13:33 GMT

    Tendulkar is to Batting what Steyn is to Balling. BOTH ARE GODS. I don't care what happens in the limited-over-versions. For me ONLY Test-cricket counts. And to say that Steyn need not be praised so early in his career is to ignore what he has achieved in such young age. 196 wickets in just 38 matches!!! Maybe only Lilee/Younis are head of him in terms of fastest-wicket-taking (by just one match). And Steyn YET has to reach his peak. And when he does, it will make for some awesome mind-boggling Stats. it's for a reason that most experts have predicted that Steyn is going to be a Great. At this rate of wicket-taking, I easily see at least 450 wickets in him.

    And finally: if they alllow hunting (NOT fishing unless it's in restricted areas) in SA, as an Indian, I would say it's B-A-D! What satisfaction do humans achieve or bravado they display by killing innocent harmless animals using a gun from a distance? And PLEASE, let's NOT glorify hunting. How can it be called a Past-time?

  • cabinet96 on March 2, 2010, 21:45 GMT

    i don't particularly like or agree with hunting but i don't have a problem with other people doing it.

    and as for him going at 8.90 against sachin he overall has a pretty good record on the subcontinent he twice destroyed them there. remember the 2nd test of the series in 2008.

  • gudolerhum on March 2, 2010, 13:30 GMT

    @bis_d - why do you take yourself so seriously? Critical of the style of the article, you proceed to reduce yourself in the same manner to the absurd. While the article may have been over the top in some of its comparisons it was entertaining and in some parts, informative. Leave it at that. Thank you Mr Roebuck for providing the insights that you did!

  • SatyajitM on March 2, 2010, 5:19 GMT

    Roebuck's prose is beautiful but a bit over the top! "On the subcontinent they were raised mostly in the rugged north with its mountains and warriors." is definitely not what happens here :-) As per Dale Steyn's background he only can confirm about that. I am really concerned about the wildlife in SA. Do they still allow uncontrolled hunting? Also, hunting isn't something I feel morally right (you having the gun in your hand againt the paw) so Roebuck should have stopped himself from projecting that part (and praising that trait). As per the bowling part, Steyn do look top class and we need some more like him around!

  • on February 28, 2010, 3:33 GMT

    Cricket needs more Steyns.

  • SatyajitM on March 6, 2010, 6:59 GMT

    @Nocturnal_guy, we know who you are referring to :-) However, you have got it all wrong. Roebuck is referring to batsman clan in general and not one specific batsman. Roebuck uses colorful language and you need not take it all seriously (on top of that if you read in between the lines it could become very misleading). About that specific cricketer, Roebuck has very high regard (check his last article on him http://www.cricinfo.com/sachinat20/content/story/434360.html).

    @cabinet96, you or I may not have problem with hunting, but the animals do have ;-) On a more serious note, we in India are suffering the effects of uncontrolled hunting in the first half of 20th century. While we humans, have occupied most part of land (which is irreversible) it's importand that other animals are allowed to survive in their den. The balance of nature must not be destroyed further.

  • Nocturnal_guy on March 5, 2010, 12:39 GMT

    Man…you do have a point there. "Something is needed to persuade a man to charge 30 yards to the crease, hurl down a delivery with all his might and then suffer as some over-praised WRETCH elegantly raises his bat and allows the ball to pass…."

    One doesn't need too much of an effort to understand who the batsman Mr Roebuck seems to be referring to here. And I can bet this guy doesn't have a heart as "vast as Steyn's". No wonder this fellow had asked the government to wave off Octroi Duty on his imported Ferrari….remember!

    Hey! But they tell me that a certain batsman helps an Orphanage - two sides of the same coin should I say.

  • Bobby_Talyarkhan on March 4, 2010, 22:12 GMT

    @Dougwensam what i take seriously is my love of cricket and what i detest is those who exploit cricket lovers to promote their own agendas. Roebuck is a seriously reactionary and conservative hack who peddles the most laughably risible stereotypes about races and cultures - the "warrior pathan", the "atheletic black descended from slaves", the "straight talking Boer", etc. etc. that sort of thing - to cover up for his completely inadequate historical and cultural knowledge. These are little more than the wet dreams of repressed public school boys and Roebuck is a veritable legatee of the Wilbur Smith school of writing for the intellectually flatulent and morally incontinent. Anyone who regards such buffoonery as a "harmless bit of jolly good fun" is on the way to foresaking their critical human faculties and that is not the level of cricketing debate I want to regress to.

  • Amol_Gh on March 4, 2010, 7:34 GMT

    It's a Common Myth that McGrath was a fast bowler. In my opinion, he was NOT. Allan Donald, Waqar Younis were the LAST EFFECTIVE CLASSIC fast bowlers the game has seen. Bret Lee was one but was NOT effective in tests.

  • on March 3, 2010, 16:11 GMT

    I love Steyn too.. he is fast, swings the ball and relies more on his craft rather than unnecessary verbal chitchat... unlike the Aussies of yore... and boy does he look hungry...! I hope he inspires other quickies in SA and the world... there's another reason I like him... he kinda looks like Daniel Craig.. the Bond... hmm... that makes him even more likable !

  • Amol_Gh on March 3, 2010, 13:33 GMT

    Tendulkar is to Batting what Steyn is to Balling. BOTH ARE GODS. I don't care what happens in the limited-over-versions. For me ONLY Test-cricket counts. And to say that Steyn need not be praised so early in his career is to ignore what he has achieved in such young age. 196 wickets in just 38 matches!!! Maybe only Lilee/Younis are head of him in terms of fastest-wicket-taking (by just one match). And Steyn YET has to reach his peak. And when he does, it will make for some awesome mind-boggling Stats. it's for a reason that most experts have predicted that Steyn is going to be a Great. At this rate of wicket-taking, I easily see at least 450 wickets in him.

    And finally: if they alllow hunting (NOT fishing unless it's in restricted areas) in SA, as an Indian, I would say it's B-A-D! What satisfaction do humans achieve or bravado they display by killing innocent harmless animals using a gun from a distance? And PLEASE, let's NOT glorify hunting. How can it be called a Past-time?

  • cabinet96 on March 2, 2010, 21:45 GMT

    i don't particularly like or agree with hunting but i don't have a problem with other people doing it.

    and as for him going at 8.90 against sachin he overall has a pretty good record on the subcontinent he twice destroyed them there. remember the 2nd test of the series in 2008.

  • gudolerhum on March 2, 2010, 13:30 GMT

    @bis_d - why do you take yourself so seriously? Critical of the style of the article, you proceed to reduce yourself in the same manner to the absurd. While the article may have been over the top in some of its comparisons it was entertaining and in some parts, informative. Leave it at that. Thank you Mr Roebuck for providing the insights that you did!

  • SatyajitM on March 2, 2010, 5:19 GMT

    Roebuck's prose is beautiful but a bit over the top! "On the subcontinent they were raised mostly in the rugged north with its mountains and warriors." is definitely not what happens here :-) As per Dale Steyn's background he only can confirm about that. I am really concerned about the wildlife in SA. Do they still allow uncontrolled hunting? Also, hunting isn't something I feel morally right (you having the gun in your hand againt the paw) so Roebuck should have stopped himself from projecting that part (and praising that trait). As per the bowling part, Steyn do look top class and we need some more like him around!

  • on February 28, 2010, 3:33 GMT

    Cricket needs more Steyns.

  • Go_F.Alonso on February 26, 2010, 16:03 GMT

    @banair: Steyn to Sachin 37 runs off 31 balls (certainly not 8.90); to Dhoni 23 off 10; Pathan 9 off 3. The point is Steyn had one bad day when the batters went crazy on a pitch full of runs. Remember Steyn in Nagpur not so long ago? He's a great bowler, the best in my books. All he needs is to be consistent and fit. He has age in his favor, I hope he's spoken in the same terms as McG by the time he retires.

    As for Steyn's background and upbringing, I agree with others. Roebuck kinda made a mockery of himself tyring to make sense of gibberish unrelated nonsense. Why link up all his life's activities/hobbies/interests to what he's become now?

  • on February 26, 2010, 9:32 GMT

    @promol: you may like or dislike dale steyn ;that doesn't make any sense, the true fact is he is now the number one fast bowler and after retirement of Mcgra again world has got another classic fast bowler.Producing such kind of fast bowler probably a dream of thousand days of your country!

  • on February 26, 2010, 9:23 GMT

    @promol: you may like or dislike dale steyn ;that doesn't make any sense, the true fact is he is now the number one fast bowler and after retirement of Mcgra again world has got another classic fast bowler.Producing such kind of fast bowler probably a dream of thousand days of your country!

  • ram5160 on February 25, 2010, 15:34 GMT

    This is rock bottom folks.

  • Rohan1 on February 25, 2010, 14:16 GMT

    I just love Steyn! Sure he may be demented on field but he has a sort of old world charm. None of the Aussie neanderthals (With the honorable exception of Brett Lee) had that charm. Most fast bowlers are uncouth barbarians with a put on off the field persona. Steyn is Class, both on the field and off it. Rare breed. May he prosper.

  • Bobby_Talyarkhan on February 25, 2010, 9:11 GMT

    "drank pints and had strong backs....came from the torrid, remote outback...the rugged north with its mountains and warriors....hundreds of years of slavery and the strength and athleticism that it unwittingly instilled. "

    Oh dear oh dear! cliches heaped upon archaic stereotypes piled upon reductionist generalisations overdone to a slow and painful death.

    The social Darwinist genetic determinist Roebuck wants us all to fit into his extremist right wing agenda of being chained to our remote past and our natural/racial environment. This is only a rehashing of the old British imperialist ideology mytholigised by Kipling et al that some parts of India (the "rugged North" etc.) were home to "warrior races", with their contempt reserved for the bespectacled weedy Bengali babu (of course this had a lot more to do with the political opposition the British Empire faced in areas of India like Bengal).

    Roebuck you've got nothing to say cricket wise - you are a peddlar of reactionary yarns.

  • getgopi on February 25, 2010, 3:21 GMT

    Dale's a tremendous athlete on the field and I learnt a few interesting things about his background from this article. But this article could have been envisioned differently as it sounds a bit vain...and Dale doesn't deserve that.

  • ww113 on February 25, 2010, 3:15 GMT

    Pakistani fast bowlers have mostly emerged from the plains of the Punjab.Waseem Akram,Waqar Younis,Shoaib Akhtar,Sarfraz Nawaz,Mohammad Zahid etc. Imran Khan also learnt his cricket in Lahore.

  • asad114 on February 25, 2010, 0:44 GMT

    "On the subcontinent they were raised mostly in the rugged north with its mountains and warriors." Who specifically are you referring to?Maybe you're referring to Imran Khan. FYI he was raised in Lahore. Please do some research before you make statements that show your lack of knowledge about the sub-continent.

  • NEUTRAL_FAN on February 24, 2010, 22:40 GMT

    The best way to compare a player is to see how he matches up against his pairs. The guy (not just statistically) is head and shoulders above his next competitor. The piece about his batting shows his incredible passion for the game. You can't be jumping the gun if a guy plays 30+ tests, persons are making it sound like he just started bowling yesterday, many bowlers have gone almost full careers without taking 195 wickets! Not 5, not 95 but 195! Instead of pointing fingers at the fact he got hit for 8.95 by Sachin, you should say well played Sachin then go up and shake Steyn's hand for trying so hard to take a wicket on a ROAD. In this era 5.25 or so econ is not bad FOR A WICKET TAKER. I think if you were to ask any fast bowling great who they rate ,they will certainly say Dale Steyn!

  • Fruho on February 24, 2010, 20:21 GMT

    How ironic that this article full of praise for Steyn is posted the day he gets shelled for 8.90 an over by Tendulkar

  • Shash28 on February 24, 2010, 18:29 GMT

    At promol - I'm not a hunter either but you are completely over-reacting to that aspect of this article.. in reality, hunters usually give more to funding national reserves and parks than nature lovers... having lived amongst hunters in the U.S., there' a culture that you must understand. Please don't think rural hunters are immoral people while the cities develope moral people. It should not take away anything away from Steyn' Test record. He is a good T20 bowler but if you look at his ODI record, it is still not as good as it should be. As to the hammerings in the two ODI' in India? You probably would have leaked 200 runs in your allotted 10 if you bowled on such a surface... in truth, ODI pitches around the world are unfairly slanted towards batting. I really enjoy watching Steyn and am extremely amazed by his consistent destruction of teams around the world. After 38 Tests and many played in increasing batting friendly conditions, he' stats should stand out in cricket history.

  • sathish4 on February 24, 2010, 18:09 GMT

    Great bowler. Best right now.. but I'd like to point something out. Last year during the IPL, the ball went to third man and the fielder there(Akhil, I think it was) misfielded and the ball went past the ropes. Steyn mockingly applauded. That sort of attitude's just not on, is it? Thought that was rather pathetic from him.

    Great bowler, though, fantastic watching him bowl.

  • Crickettttt on February 24, 2010, 16:59 GMT

    Hold on Guys - I admit I have always admired Dale, I rate him on the lines of Bret Lee but such a fascinating article, almost God-like projection is totally unwarranted. I like peters fiery articles and beauty appeals, he can co-direct Avatar but but but if its not befitting then it underplays the actual stalwartrs, in this case the remaining south african legends like Allan Donald. Facts-> Dale - 38 tests 196 wickets 13 5W hauls, really awesome, but still years to mature. 36 ODIs, 51 Wickets, 5.25 Econ naaa hes above average. To write such an article is to demean Allan and Co. Its like projecting Duminy like Kallis. Talent is there but please dont write to show your language instead just write about the player and your admiration. If a movie like "Couples Retreat" is advertised and hyped like "Avatar" its rated as funny and spoofy.

    Summing it up - Great Article, Good Player. Play of words doesnt match achievements of the player. Even Dale might be embarrased a tad shy reading this

  • promal on February 24, 2010, 14:35 GMT

    I always love Peter's articles, but this one just made me ANGRY!! Mainly for non-cricketing reasons, but for cricketing reasons as well! It is such a shame that most countries on Earth, sometimes those with abundant wildlife, have a law that permits hunting. That itself is absolutely despicable. No hunter can claim to be a lover of nature and so I vehemently object to that comment in the article. I hope Steyn hasn't indulged in any of his hunting escapades in India because it is illegal there, whether you are hunting peafowl, boar or tiger. I have never really liked or rated Steyn and the fact that he enjoys hunting/fishing has certainly set that feeling in stone. And the inconsistency that plagued his early career plagues him now as well. He was dreadful against England in the SA home series, and after a spate of lucky and tailender (barring Tendulkar) wickets in Nagpur, he has been summarily and rightly pulverised in Calcutta, Jaipur and Gwalior, with increasing venom, which I love!!

  • cbesud2009 on February 24, 2010, 8:15 GMT

    What a sight to watch him run in and hit the crease and bowl , smooth as can be. He resembles Holding and Hadlee in that respect. Bowling attacks around the world , should have atleast one if not two bowlers with his class. Then there will be no talk of test cricket dying. Wicket taking bowlers make test cricket or for that matter all forms of cricket interesting. But all the rules are made to make their life difficult. If they can make bats that have a lot more wood that edges go for six, why cant they make balls with more prominent seams and retain the shine longer. If they can change the ball in the 34th over so the batsmen have a newer harder bal they can sight better l, why not have 2 white balls for the 2 ends in ODIs so bowlers can move the ball around longer..........

  • on February 24, 2010, 8:00 GMT

    definitely the best in the business...hes one big reason that gives us hope in these days of flat wickets and pampered batsmen that practitioners of the nearly extinct art of genuine fast bowling are still alive and kicking

  • ww113 on February 24, 2010, 7:44 GMT

    Easily the best fast bowler in the game at the moment.

  • Theena on February 24, 2010, 7:24 GMT

    Best fast bowler going around? Without a doubt in my mind. I can't wait to see how he'll progress when - yes, when - he reaches his pomp. Without a Steyn, I fear for the future of fast bowling.

  • raghavaussiecombine on February 24, 2010, 5:48 GMT

    Although Steyn deserves this article, I think as always you have gone `over and way above' the board, Peter. Steyn needs to perform like this for at least 2 more seasons to be counted among Ntini or Donald.

  • manasvi_lingam on February 24, 2010, 5:20 GMT

    A very nice sounding article from Peter Roebuck but this one lacks the insights that his previous articles had. It's more poetic to read but it doesn't present any clear-cut analysis of what makes a fast bowler and what defines their greatness. Perhaps it's a separate article in itself. Peter has also conveniently ignored Steyn's ordinary bowling in the 2nd Test and in the 1st ODI. He has also focused too much on his batting at the expense of his fabulous bowling. Let's not forget that Steyn is not a batsman nor an all-rounder but a pure bowler.

  • NEUTRAL_FAN on February 24, 2010, 3:45 GMT

    Fast bowling has finally found a new hero. Many other fast bowlers around have been crashing via injury, being "sorted out", controversy and lack of potency. All this time Steyn, has risen and hopefully will continue to rise. Now many of us who never had the luxury of watching the W.I. pace quartet, the Lillee and Thomo show or the Imran Khans or Alan Donalds (who I my self has only seen towards the end of his career), finally found some one worthy of a comparison. Some one to whom we can argue with the elders and say "Our generation produced Dale Steyn! So we too know what real, consistent and fit/durable fast bowling is." I wish him all the luck and hope that in this era of flat pitches he can still pull off the record of the fastest to 300 wickets. I also hope that young quicks like Kemar Roach and Mohammed Ameer can follow suit...the game needs them!

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  • NEUTRAL_FAN on February 24, 2010, 3:45 GMT

    Fast bowling has finally found a new hero. Many other fast bowlers around have been crashing via injury, being "sorted out", controversy and lack of potency. All this time Steyn, has risen and hopefully will continue to rise. Now many of us who never had the luxury of watching the W.I. pace quartet, the Lillee and Thomo show or the Imran Khans or Alan Donalds (who I my self has only seen towards the end of his career), finally found some one worthy of a comparison. Some one to whom we can argue with the elders and say "Our generation produced Dale Steyn! So we too know what real, consistent and fit/durable fast bowling is." I wish him all the luck and hope that in this era of flat pitches he can still pull off the record of the fastest to 300 wickets. I also hope that young quicks like Kemar Roach and Mohammed Ameer can follow suit...the game needs them!

  • manasvi_lingam on February 24, 2010, 5:20 GMT

    A very nice sounding article from Peter Roebuck but this one lacks the insights that his previous articles had. It's more poetic to read but it doesn't present any clear-cut analysis of what makes a fast bowler and what defines their greatness. Perhaps it's a separate article in itself. Peter has also conveniently ignored Steyn's ordinary bowling in the 2nd Test and in the 1st ODI. He has also focused too much on his batting at the expense of his fabulous bowling. Let's not forget that Steyn is not a batsman nor an all-rounder but a pure bowler.

  • raghavaussiecombine on February 24, 2010, 5:48 GMT

    Although Steyn deserves this article, I think as always you have gone `over and way above' the board, Peter. Steyn needs to perform like this for at least 2 more seasons to be counted among Ntini or Donald.

  • Theena on February 24, 2010, 7:24 GMT

    Best fast bowler going around? Without a doubt in my mind. I can't wait to see how he'll progress when - yes, when - he reaches his pomp. Without a Steyn, I fear for the future of fast bowling.

  • ww113 on February 24, 2010, 7:44 GMT

    Easily the best fast bowler in the game at the moment.

  • on February 24, 2010, 8:00 GMT

    definitely the best in the business...hes one big reason that gives us hope in these days of flat wickets and pampered batsmen that practitioners of the nearly extinct art of genuine fast bowling are still alive and kicking

  • cbesud2009 on February 24, 2010, 8:15 GMT

    What a sight to watch him run in and hit the crease and bowl , smooth as can be. He resembles Holding and Hadlee in that respect. Bowling attacks around the world , should have atleast one if not two bowlers with his class. Then there will be no talk of test cricket dying. Wicket taking bowlers make test cricket or for that matter all forms of cricket interesting. But all the rules are made to make their life difficult. If they can make bats that have a lot more wood that edges go for six, why cant they make balls with more prominent seams and retain the shine longer. If they can change the ball in the 34th over so the batsmen have a newer harder bal they can sight better l, why not have 2 white balls for the 2 ends in ODIs so bowlers can move the ball around longer..........

  • promal on February 24, 2010, 14:35 GMT

    I always love Peter's articles, but this one just made me ANGRY!! Mainly for non-cricketing reasons, but for cricketing reasons as well! It is such a shame that most countries on Earth, sometimes those with abundant wildlife, have a law that permits hunting. That itself is absolutely despicable. No hunter can claim to be a lover of nature and so I vehemently object to that comment in the article. I hope Steyn hasn't indulged in any of his hunting escapades in India because it is illegal there, whether you are hunting peafowl, boar or tiger. I have never really liked or rated Steyn and the fact that he enjoys hunting/fishing has certainly set that feeling in stone. And the inconsistency that plagued his early career plagues him now as well. He was dreadful against England in the SA home series, and after a spate of lucky and tailender (barring Tendulkar) wickets in Nagpur, he has been summarily and rightly pulverised in Calcutta, Jaipur and Gwalior, with increasing venom, which I love!!

  • Crickettttt on February 24, 2010, 16:59 GMT

    Hold on Guys - I admit I have always admired Dale, I rate him on the lines of Bret Lee but such a fascinating article, almost God-like projection is totally unwarranted. I like peters fiery articles and beauty appeals, he can co-direct Avatar but but but if its not befitting then it underplays the actual stalwartrs, in this case the remaining south african legends like Allan Donald. Facts-> Dale - 38 tests 196 wickets 13 5W hauls, really awesome, but still years to mature. 36 ODIs, 51 Wickets, 5.25 Econ naaa hes above average. To write such an article is to demean Allan and Co. Its like projecting Duminy like Kallis. Talent is there but please dont write to show your language instead just write about the player and your admiration. If a movie like "Couples Retreat" is advertised and hyped like "Avatar" its rated as funny and spoofy.

    Summing it up - Great Article, Good Player. Play of words doesnt match achievements of the player. Even Dale might be embarrased a tad shy reading this

  • sathish4 on February 24, 2010, 18:09 GMT

    Great bowler. Best right now.. but I'd like to point something out. Last year during the IPL, the ball went to third man and the fielder there(Akhil, I think it was) misfielded and the ball went past the ropes. Steyn mockingly applauded. That sort of attitude's just not on, is it? Thought that was rather pathetic from him.

    Great bowler, though, fantastic watching him bowl.