Shaun Pollock was already a legend, but he was ageing. In 2007, there were fears that he would be dropped from the Pakistan test series at the expense of either Dale Steyn or Andrew Nel. Pollock was a mild and soft spoken guy, whom very few hated. Not many wanted to hear the news of him being dropped from a South African test side. But 8 years back if we knew that it would be this Dale Steyn who would be forcing Pollock into the woods, then not many would have complained.
Dale Steyn stormed into test cricket like how a tornado would. He cart wheeled Michael Vaughan’s off stump in his 1st test. If that wasn’t enough what followed next was to become the one of the most cherished celebrations in cricketing history. He exploded, he sent tremors down the spine of Port Elizabeth. Like how a gladiator would celebrate the death of his enemy, Steyn celebrated.
Dale Steyn is to cricket, how water is to a fish or how oxygen is to a human. He has kept it alive for as long as he has roared and he will keep it alive for as long as he roars. In an era in which the money maniacs have overtly displayed their greed in shamelessly trying to kill the art of fast bowling with flat tracks, Steyn has stood tall and held high, the flag of survival. On one such track in Nagpur, Steyn breathed fire, he cut through the air with the vengeance of a soldier’s blade; he uprooted the mere existence of his opposer that day. He gave test cricket what it needed the most – Fire.
In Cricket, as in life, deception is the most common trick used to either defeat or survive. Spinners deceive in the air, fast bowlers deceive with their length or movement. With Dale Steyn, at times you knew what would come, yet he would conquer. In Port Elizabeth, he had slit Brad Haddin’s defence with a scorching in swinger in the 1st innings. When Haddin came to bat for the 2nd time he knew what he would be greeted with. Steyn had already served the warning. There wasn’t any deception. He stared to say he would send him packing the same way he had already done. Haddin saw it coming all the way from his run up to his release, until it reached him. Yet Steyn cut him apart. Stumps were rattled, Steyn roared and South Africa celebrated.
Steyn once said that even on the evening of a most dry and tiring day he would run and bowl as fast as he could to lift his team mates up. As a leader of the attack it was his duty, he had said. There is no better sight in world cricket than a fast bowler storming in under the fading sun. As batsmen play for the day Steyn pushes his tiring legs to steam and his aching back to bend.
Statistics is celebrated and accounted the most in cricket than in any other sport. Many cricketing careers have been scrutinized with the precision of a surgeon, mainly on the basis of number of runs scored or wickets taken. Though foolish it seems, that is how it is. In a decade or two, when Steyn is going to be judged on the same lines, I’m going to have the privilege of sitting in a corner and cracking a sheepish smile on the foolishness of our generation, for Dale Steyn is not a mere number.
400 is not a number. It is an occasion for us to revisit his deeds and remember his contribution to the game. It is an occasion for us to thank him for what he has done and pray that he continues to do what he does the best.
It’s a human tendency to be greedy. Let the stumps rattle and veins pop out. Let Dale Steyn roar forever.