Arguably the greatest fast bowler of the first two decades of this century hangs up his boot
South African pacer Dale Steyn has finally decided to quit from all forms of cricket. Steyn had retired from Test cricket in 2019, but continued limited overs cricket. He played his last international match - a T20I - against Australia in February 2020.The bowler, fondly called Steyn Gun because of his pace and precision, played 93 Test matches, picking 439 wickets at a stunning average of 22.95. He finishes eighth on the all-time list of wicket-takers and fifth among fast bowlers. The only four ahead of him are James Anderson (630), Glenn McGrath (563), Stuart Broad (524) and Courtney Walsh (519).
He also played 125 ODIs, taking 196 wickets at 25.95. Besides, in 47 T20Is, he claimed 64 at 18.35.
Collectively, Steyn took 699 international wickets. He is regarded as one of the best fast bowlers of his generation with extreme pace in his prime and the ability to swing the ball in both directions.
He played in the Pakistan Super League in March this year. Steyn also played for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Deccan Chargers, and Gujarat Lions over the course of his Indian Premier League (IPL) career. This year he pulled out of the IPL due to a shoulder injury, but insisted he wasn’t retiring.
He also played for four County Championship sides - Essex, Warwickshire, Glamorgan and Hampshire - and joined Kandy Tuskers for the 2020 Lanka Premier League in November last year.
Steyn could have taken many more wickets but because of injuries later in his career, especially a shoulder problem, he managed to play only 11 Tests after 2015.
He brilliantly led the South African attack for over 15 years, setting a high standard for the young fast bowlers to follow. At his peak, he was a master of late away swing with the new ball and reverse swing with the old ball, delivered at a high pace.
In his early days, Steyn was considered as a Test bowler due to which he got few chances in ODIs. In the first two and a half years of his ODI career, Steyn played only six matches and he was not part of the squad for the 2007 World Cup as the Protease counted on Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Charl Langeveldt, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp and Andrew Hall.
Therefore, in the first six years of his ODI career, Steyn played in only 55 of South Africa’s 120 ODIs and 21 of their 39 T20Is.
Steyn was initially included in South Africa’s squad for the 2019 World Cup but had to pull out without playing a match due to a shoulder problem.
In the shortest format, Steyn has been South Africa’s most successful, and has the second best death-bowling economy rate (7.27) in the world after Jasprit Bumrah’s 7.23.
Steyn’s strike rate of 41.6 (the number of deliveries per wicket) was better than Pakistan’s Waqar Younis (43.40).
The right-arm pacer took 80 Test matches to take 400 Test wickets - the joint-third fastest in the world. Former Sri Lankan spin magician Muttiah Muralitharan took 400 Test wickets in 72 matches, India’s Ravinchandran Ashwin in 77 and New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee in 80 matches.
Among Steyn’s clearest claims to greatness have been his performances in Asia, where quicks generally encounter the least helpful surfaces. He has 92 wickets in the continent, well clear of Anderson, who is the next-most-successful non-Asian seamer this century with 59 wickets.
At the time of announcing Test retirement, Steyn said: “In my opinion Test cricket is the best version of this game. It tests you mentally, physically, emotionally. It’s terrible to consider never playing another Test again but what’s more terrifying is the thought of never playing again at all. So I will be focusing on ODIs and T20s for the rest of my career to maximise my full potential and ensure my longevity in this sport.”
He took 10 wickets in a match five times and grabbed five or more wickets in an innings 26 times. His best bowling figures were 7-51 against India in Nagpur in February 2010.
Dale Willem Steyn made his Test debut against England in 2004 at Port Elizabeth. It was not a good start for the fast bowler as he took three wickets, conceding 146 runs. South Africa lost the Test by seven wickets.
His last appearance in Test cricket also came at Port Elizabeth, against Sri Lanka in February 2019. South Africa lost the Test by eight wickets. Steyn failed to take any wicket after conceding 77 runs.
Steyn’s career suffered because of injuries. He received a serious injury - a broken bone in his right shoulder - during South Africa’s tour to Australia in 2016. It looked like the fast bowler’s career was over. But he returned to Test cricket with a bang in 2018, taking only 14 deliveries to pick up his first comeback wicket.
After a few months, he faced another injury - this time in his heel. He regained fitness and rejoined the national team in December 2018 against Pakistan in Centurion. In that Test he became South Africa’s leading Test wicket-taker with his 422nd dismissal, going past Pollock. Because of injuries, he took 41 months to go from 400 to 422.
His ability to win matches for his team is shown by the fact that 22 of his 26 five-wicket hauls came in wins. No other pace bowler in Test history has more such hauls.
South Africa’s tour of India in 2015-16 was probably the beginning of the end of Steyn’s glorious career. He developed a groin injury in the first innings of the Mohali Test and missed the other three Tests.
Steyn remained the No 1 Test bowler for a record 263 weeks - between 2008 and 2014. He won the ICC’s Test Cricketer of the Year award in 2008 and was among Wisden’s cricketers of the year in 2013.