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'Fisherman' Steyn willing to swap pace for fitness

'I am not interested in any records. It will be a record if I can get through a game without injury' - Dale Steyn Getty Images

The day fast-bowling fans have been dreading has finally arrived: Dale Steyn has grown up.

South Africa's supercharged pace spearhead will take a back seat of sorts when he returns to the Test team, with a focus on staying fit even if it means being slightly less fast.

"If I must be realistic about it, running in and bowling 145kph all day when you haven't done it for a long time is going to be really tough. Objective number one is to get through 18 overs a day, maybe dropping in pace, but being as effective as possible. 140 is going to be enough," Steyn said at the launch of the New Zealand Test series in Durban. "There's going to be a day when I can rev it up to 145 and maybe even 150 but we've got somebody like KG (Kagiso Rabada) who can do that now."

Steyn's more measured approach comes after he experienced first hand the risks of doing too much, too quickly last summer. After a groin strain kept Steyn out of three of South Africa's four Tests in India, he tried to rush his way back and broke his shoulder. "As I recovered from one, I broke down on the other one and its only because I was going from 0 to 100 way too quickly," Steyn said. "If you look at your fast cars, Ferraris, they always tell you drive it to 1000 kays (kms) before you hit 200-plus. I obviously didn't put in 1000 kays, I was just trying to hit 200 and then I bust the shoulder."

He recovered in time for the World T20 but was left out of the one-day squad that travelled to the Caribbean in June. Steyn played in the NatWest T20 Blast instead, followed by the CPL, which means he has not had to bowl more than four overs a match this year and is looking forward to the challenge of longer, more intense spells.

"I love the idea that I can bowl long periods and attack for a whole lot longer by bowling consistently hard lengths with the odd bouncer here and there," he said. "In one day cricket, you bowl two hard-length balls and then think this guy might come at me, I have to change up now and then bowl a slower ball. Now, you can really put pressure on batters. You can hit that hard length all day until they make a mistake and that's what I love. I love testing guys' patience and it's a waiting game. I am a fisherman, I will wait there all day and hopefully find the edge or knock his poles over."

New Zealand's line-up has been one of the places Steyn has most enjoyed casting his net and one of the fish he hopes to reel in is opening batsman Martin Guptill. "I like playing against them and I have had personal success against them. I got Guptill out in the CPL, nicked him off. Straight away he came to me and said, 'I can't wait to come to South Africa,' and I said, 'Neither can I.'"

Steyn's success against New Zealand stretches back to his breakthrough season as an international bowler, when he took successive ten-wicket hauls in a two-match series in the 2007-08 season headlined by the bouncer that damaged Craig Cummins' face. Also, Doug Bracewell was his 300th Test wicket and he now has the opportunity to notch up another milestone against New Zealand.

With 406 wickets to his name, Steyn is 16 away from overtaking Shaun Pollock and becoming South Africa's leading wicket-taker. For now, though, that is not a goal on his mind. "That stuff annoys me. When I went to Bangladesh everyone said you are going to get 400 wickets and then the rain came and it was a nightmare and then people said in India, if you bowl well you can get Polly's record and then I did a groin and then they said if bowl well against England, you will get it. I am not interested in any records. It will be a record if I can get through a game without injury."