Dale Steyn will miss South Africa's tour of England, which starts next week and ends in August, as he continues to recover from a shoulder surgery. Steyn, who has been out of action since the Perth Test against Australia last November with a broken bone, was due to play in two four-day games for the South Africa A side in the UK, to put himself in line for Test selection. However, considering he is still undergoing rehabilitation, he has opted to withdraw from those matches.
"My recovery is going well but it is taking a little longer than I expected it to," Steyn said at the CSA Annual Awards Dinner on Saturday. "I am able to do a lot of things, like running, hiking and gym work, but bowling is not one of them, and I won't be ready in time."
When Steyn was initially diagnosed, it was expected he would need at least six months on the sidelines, which could have put him in contention for the UK tour. Instead, he is now targeting the home series against Bangladesh in September-October to make an international comeback, but understands he will need game time before that if he is to make the squad.
"Obviously, one of the reasons for me playing with the A side was so that I could get some match fitness before the Tests. So, before that Bangladesh series, I will need to play a bit," Steyn said.
South Africa A will play in a limited-overs tournament against India A and Australia A late in the winter, which could give Steyn his much-needed game time, but he has also not ruled out the possibility of a short county stint in order to get some overs in. "In a way it could be quite funny - South Africa will be playing a Test series in England and maybe at some ground down the road, Dale Steyn will be playing for another team," he joked.
Steyn could not put a timeline on when he will return to bowling but stated that he was not experiencing any pain in the shoulder when "doing normal things." He is on an extensive rehabilitation program which runs five days a week and includes activities to strengthen the smaller muscles around the shoulder joint. His plan is to gradually work his way up to being able to return to bowling.
"We have to understand that fast bowling is not something normal people do, so it's going to take time. Normal people do things mostly below the shoulder line; it's unusual to have something above the line except for things like bowling and tennis. I just have to be patient," Steyn said.
Despite Steyn's absence, South Africa will still have what he considers a "very strong attack," which will include the fit-again Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier and, possibly, Chris Morris or Wayne Parnell - or both, as they had in New Zealand. Philander is the only other injury concern - he sustained a groin injury while playing for Sussex earlier this month - but South Africa are hopeful he will be able to play a full part in the Test series.