Steyn lays down Twenty20 ambition
Dale Steyn has laid down a challenge to the rest of South Africa's bowlers ahead of their next major limited-overs assignment at the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh: if you're better than me, you can have my place, otherwise you will have to "pull me out of this team."
Steyn wants to play at the tournament next March, even though he has not been a regular in the shortest format and has committed to playing all seven of South Africa's matches before then in the hope of establishing himself.
"I want to form part of this puzzle. I want to get my piece solidly in there so people can find a way to bowl around me or we can bowl with each other," he said. "I want to play all the Twenty20s. The T20 World Cup is just around the corner and I want to play that."
Since his T20 debut in 2007, Steyn has appeared in 29 of the 49 matches South Africa have played, including all four World T20s. While Steyn would appear an automatic choice for 2014, he has not played in South Africa's last seven T20s due to workload management but has expressed his desire for that to change.
He wants to turn out in the T20s against Pakistan in the UAE, the two in the return series at home and three against Australia to ensure he is ready for the big event. "[Shorter formats] are not as hectic on the body and it's a lot of fun. You want to play cricket because it's fun. Test matches are really hard, but I find ODIs and T20s a lot of fun. It just keeps me going," he said.
Steyn spent the early years of his career injury free but has since struggled with a range of niggles including hamstring, groin and side strains. In order to ensure he is ready to take his place in the Test line-up, he has been allowed rest from shorter formats of the game. It is thought he will prioritise Tests going forward but Steyn indicated he does not want to become a one-trick pony just yet.
"I feel young; I'm 30 but AB looks older than me," he joked. "I'll just play for as long as I can. There's some fantastic players that are coming up. Marchant de Lange is bowling really quickly. He is a guy we can look to in the future. And Wayne Parnell, he got Man of the Match in the first game [against Pakistan].
"Our cupboard of fast bowlers is great and if there's somebody better than me and they take my place, I'm happy to step aside and let them play. I want this team to do well. But while I'm fit and firing you're going to have to pull me out of this team."
While Steyn's determination to be part of the XI is brazen, he is far less adamant about where he should fit in. With pace and swing his main weapons, Steyn is always the pundits choice to open the bowling but in the third ODI against Pakistan he was used at first change with the Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe sharing the first duties. He was handed the new ball in the fourth match and bowled four wicket-less overs before being taken off and saved for later.
When AB de Villiers brought him back, Steyn bowled another two overs without success but struck in his third spell and finished Pakistan off in his fourth. De Villiers said he is learning to use Steyn when he wants an impact player and Steyn confirmed he to fit in wherever is required.
"I enjoy opening the bowling; it's always great to set the tone. And the players also enjoy it when it's buzzing and the ball is flying and things are happening for you as a bowler. But we've got guys who can do that," he said, taking the spotlight off himself.
"Morne Morkel is really quick and Lopsy's [Tsotsobe] record speaks for himself - he may not be 145kph but at one time he was rated the No.1 bowler in the world. There's no point in taking the ball away from those guys. Opening the bowling is about setting the tone, I believe. You want guys to come out and make a statement with the ball."
Steyn makes statements whether or not he is bowling. He was seen having words with Mohammad Hafeez, a man he has dismissed eight times in seven Tests and who is regarded as his bunny, during the fourth ODI. He was seen celebrating other bowlers' success as warmly as he did his own. He was seen pumped up at every dismissal, punching the air and roaring in delight.
And although he is now the other side of 30 he has no plans to change his approach. "I'm always fired up, that's just how I play," he said. "There's no point not being fired up - I'm a fast bowler."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent