Dale Steyn is targeting June 2017 for a comeback, which could mean he will only turn out for South Africa during their tour to England next year. Steyn, who is five away from overtaking Shaun Pollock as South Africa's top Test wicket-taker, was ruled out for at least six months after breaking a bone in his right shoulder during the second day of the Perth Test last month and hopes to begin light activity by February.
"The first two to three months is just the healing phase so by the end of February I will start to be able to do things like light bowling, start swimming and all that kind of stuff," Steyn said, during the match between the national cricket and rugby teams in Newlands last week.
Steyn all but ruled himself out of the domestic season and the IPL but left the door open for participation in the Champions Trophy which begins on June 1. South Africa will play three ODIs in England before that, followed by three T20s at the end of June and four Tests in July and August. Doubtless, Steyn will need some game time before June but he insisted he will not rush his way back, as he has done before.
"June is realistic for South Africa. I haven't had a long break like this in a good few years and every season I go into it with something wrong, whether it be a little hammie or whatever. It will be nice to go into a season, starting in June, and confidently know that I am really strong and in a good place," he said.
Steyn was particularly satisfied that he left South Africa's attack in solid hands and was impressed with the way they stood up in his absence in Australia. "We definitely out-bowled Australia and that's why we ended up winning. Our batters all contributed in parts but at the end of the day, I think it was our bowlers that won it."
He admitted to having "itchy feet already" and will have one eye on the upcoming home series against Sri Lanka, which he has tipped South Africa to win convincingly. "Sri Lanka are a good side but in South Africa - nothing against them - we should win," he said, even hazarding a guess at the scoreline. "Two-nil, with one possibly washed out with rain."
Every member of the pack got a special mention from Steyn, who called their collective performance "unreal" and expects them to take that form into the Sri Lanka Tests. "I was sitting at home during the Hobart Test and I knew [Kyle] Abbott was always going to bowl well. He is one of those guys who bowls top of off stump all the time, he's got a skiddy bouncer and that's all you need in Test cricket. In Hobart, there was a little bit of assistance, so when you've got a bowler like that with skills like he does, you are going to do well. It's obviously difficult to do it but he does it really well.
"But then KG (Kagiso Rabada), he just ran in and bowled quick all day. That's all you want from him and he strikes every now and again. And then Vernon [Philander] is quality, that's why he got the Man of the Series, he can bat and we all know he can bowl. He hasn't disappointed in four or five years of playing. The way we are playing, with our bowlers doing well, quietly, confidently, we should beat Sri Lanka."