Dale Steyn aims to return to action after a year on the sidelines next month, most likely in South Africa's franchise T20 competition which is expected to be played in the window created by the postponed T20 Global League. Steyn was set to play in the Global League and had been bought by the Cape Town Knight Riders, and his recovery remains on track.
Following months of rest and rehabilitation after breaking a bone in his shoulder last November, Steyn started bowling again around three weeks ago, when the South African squad was preparing for the first home Test against Bangladesh. He spent a few days with them in camp in Potchefstroom and has since been working with trainers in Cape Town, bowling three time a week. Next week he will increase that to four times with a view to being back to his best in November.
"It happens quite quickly. I go off three paces on the Monday, then Wednesday I go off five paces, but I bowl 26 balls. Then Friday, I bowl off five paces but I bowl 30 balls. At the moment, where I am at right now, I bowl Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and at about 70% or 80% of my full run-up, at about 60-70%," Steyn told ESPNcricinfo at a sponsor event on Thursday. "Next week, I will move it to bowling on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday off and bowling again Thursday and Friday. And we just up the percentage every week so eventually when we play the T20s, I will going full run-up, full-pace."
After many months of not bowling at all, Steyn is finally finding the form and rhythm he needs to be match fit and, crucially, is not in any pain while doing it. "My arm is perfect, if anything its stronger than it was before because its reinforced with a pin," he joked. "It's 100% now. I've just got to start reminding myself how to bowl at high speeds because I haven't done it for a year."
When Steyn was injured in Australia, he had only just recovered from a prior shoulder injury and a groin injury, all of which has limited his game time since the end of 2015. As a result, his recent list of injury concerns have caused questions over whether he could continue his career, the man himself wants to play "until either they don't like me anymore, or I am not good enough". He is confident he is fit enough to come back because it was not a case of poor conditioning but an unusually complicated problem that kept him off the field for so long.
"There's only ever been two of us that have ever broken this bone in cricket. To diagnose a time frame for how long it was going to take to come back was quite difficult. It's not like a hamstring, where they've had ten billion people that have torn hamstrings and they say in six to eight weeks you will be up and running again. They can't say three months and you will be up and running again, six months. I was kind of a guinea pig going through this whole process and the other guy never went back to playing cricket, he was a schoolboy," Steyn said.
"When I originally broke the bone, I also tore my bicep tendon, my pec and a muscle at the back called the infraspinatus. That's three muscles that ruptured when I broke that bone. So the bone took a while to heal and strengthen but then those muscles took a long time to recover. That's why it took so long and then when I started to bowl, typical me, I was trying to go from 0 to 100 quickly and I injured a pec. We are finally at a point where everything is strong, now it's a case don't do anything stupid. As cricketers we get injured all the time. I go for a run up the mountain and I could get a hamstring injury."
So does that mean Steyn is staying indoors for the next few weeks?
Not quite. He confessed that he will still be surfing because "that's fine" and enjoying an outdoor lifestyle, but knows the onus is on him to prove that he can cope with the workloads of international cricket. "It's pretty tough bowling 150 kilometres normally. Now I've got to do it with a broken bone in my arm. It's a tough ask but I think I am doing okay."
Steyn is also particularly "excited" to work under new coach Ottis Gibson, whom he met during the time he spent in Potchefstroom and whom he has had brief conversations with since.
"It's the first time in my career I have had a head coach who was a bowler. With all due respect to the previous coaches, they were all batters, they see the game differently to the way that bowlers see the game. When I sat in one or two meetings, I saw Ottis' eyes light up when KG [Kagiso Rabada] was talking, I saw his eyes light up when Morne [Morkel] was talking; they didn't light up so much when Hashim [Amla] was talking.It gets me excited because he is on the same wavelength as us. For the first time its also great to see that the head coach is out in the middle when the bowlers are bowling and not in the nets with the batters. The love is being shared a little and I think the bowlers will start to get taken a little bit more seriously when it comes to decision making. I do feel they have a lot of offer. It has been batter dominant for a long time, so I am quite excited about the head coach being an ex-bowler."