<
>

Australia's new culture will be hard to crack - Steyn

At the end of a tumultuous week since the release of the cultural review, Australia's focus will finally return to the cricket with the first ODI against South Africa in Perth, but amid the fallout from the Newlands ball-tampering scandal and all that has happened since, player behaviour will be under increased scrutiny come Sunday. For visiting quick Dale Steyn, that's just a sign of the times as the game becomes "more professional".

"When I first started going to the IPL, in the beginning we didn't even have a fitness trainer," he said after South Africa's training session in Perth. "Now it's very professional. You get an email that tells you exactly what you've got to eat, tells you exactly what time the bus is. We've got to grow up with the times, that's just how it is, and behaviour is one of those things that has become very much part of the game. There's strict rules. KG [Kagiso Rabada] has faced harsh criticism and some trouble even within our side."

"Every time you play against Australia, you still feel like that culture from years back is going to be hard to crack"

While Mitchell Starc said the team will be ignoring the boardroom drama, soul-searching about how Australia choose to play their cricket and their reputation in the game has been another talking point from the cultural review. An ultra-aggressive, win-at-all-costs attitude is increasingly out of place in a changing sporting landscape.

"It's going to be interesting to see which direction they go," Steyn said. "Every time you play against Australia, you still feel like that culture from years back is going to be hard to crack. They're in your face, an aggressive team, and people want that but you talk about this line - who knows where it is - but there's rules and you've got to play along those rules."

This is the country that produced the Merv Hughes staredown and 'mental disintegration', where, as an opposition no. 11, you'd better be ready for a broken f***ing arm. Or rather, it was. For Australia, for everyone, the times they are a-changin'.

"I watched this interview with Merv the other day ... jeepers, that guy was a maniac wasn't he," Steyn joked. "We're in a different generation. Times have changed. We all have to move with the times. If you're going to live in the past, and do what you did in the past, in the current times you're going to bear the consequences for that. That's just how it is."

With their former captain and vice-captain both still in the brig for their involvement in the ball-tampering scandal, Australia are still bearing the consequences for bad decisions made in March. Steyn wouldn't be drawn into an opinion on whether Steven Smith and David Warner's bans should be lifted early, but suggested that Australia still present stiff competition in their absence.

"I'm not the headmaster here," Steyn said. "I don't make the rules and what the punishment is. But we all make mistakes and how each country deals with it is their issue.

"Those two [Smith and Warner] are always going to test you. You want to be playing against the best. But I can guarantee you when you're running in at Chris Lynn and he's eyeing out deep midwicket, and Aaron Finch who's been scoring runs lately especially for Surrey, it doesn't matter. You've just got to take on who is at the other end, regardless of the name. When we walk out to the middle, it's on.

"The last time I walked off here I didn't realise how bad my shoulder was. When I went in to see the doctor for the MRI he asked if I fell off a ladder or motorbike" Steyn on the injury he suffered in Perth in 2016

"We didn't come here to lose," Steyn added. "Any time South Africa plays against Australia it is always a good spectacle, both teams are highly competitive and do everything that they can to win. I don't think that will change come Sunday.

Steyn said he was excited to be back in Perth after a shoulder injury in the first Test in 2016 cut his tour short. This is likely to be his last international series in Australia, which makes him all the more motivated to put in a strong performance.

"It is weird to be back here," he said. "The last time I walked off here I didn't realise how bad my shoulder was. When I went in to see the doctor for the MRI he asked if I fell off a ladder or motorbike, I didn't realise it was actually that bad. Eight months of physiotherapy and non-stop rehab got me back, and I'm excited to be back here.

"We haven't played massively competitive cricket for a while. We played against Zimbabwe recently and I bowled in the high 140's (kph) and hit 150 which I was quite pleased about," he said. "If any bowler hits 150 he is going to tell you about it. I was happy with that, I got through those games and four months of county cricket with limited issues."

South Africa are coming off a comprehensive 3-0 series win against Zimbabwe, and Steyn said he expects an evenly contested series, despite the contrasting form the squads take into the series.

"Both teams are coming off a little bit of a step back, Australia haven't had the greatest tour in the UAE and they are trying to re-build themselves. We haven't played much competitive cricket for a long time. I think it will be evenly matched."