'It's important to do your homework as a bowler'

Dale Steyn... fast and furious.-K.R. DEEPAK

“When you’re an opening batsman (in T20) you can play for 20 overs... I get only 24 balls to influence a game. So, the challenge for me is to make a massive impact on the game in a very short space,” says Dale Steyn in a chat with V. V. Subrahmanyam.

Dale Steyn, arguably the best fast bowler in contemporary cricket, has the remarkable ability to put on show a deadly combination of express pace, accuracy and aggression, whether he is bowling the first ball of the innings or the last ball of the day’s proceedings.

The South African speedster, who has a stunning tally of 332 wickets from only 65 Tests, is one of the key players of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2013 Indian Premier League.

The 29-year-old fast bowler, who has taken 100 wickets in 72 One-Day Internationals, is of the view that the IPL is getting very exciting with each passing year. “New team, new owners, new coach and working with people I used to watch as a youngster, like Waqar (Younis)... It is a great experience by any means,” he says.

Steyn, who says that Jonty Rhodes is his inspiration, is quite happy with the fact that his South African team-mates have come into the current IPL fresh from their 3-0 drubbing of Pakistan at home. Personally, he had that amazing spell of six for eight as South Africa bundled out Pakistan for 49 in the first Test in Johannesburg.

He says working with Waqar (former Pakistan fast bowling great and now Sunrisers’ bowling coach) has been a wonderful experience. “You know, in the South African side we’ve got Allan Donald at the moment. He was one of the guys I used to watch when I was growing up. It’s been great to have him, to pick his brain over the last two years he has been with us. And now, I’m given another opportunity where I get to work with someone like Waqar. We all know what a fantastic player he was… incredible bowler of reverse swing, yorkers and extreme pace,” Steyn says.

“Yes, I am living my childhood dreams now by working with these guys,” he adds.

Waqar rates the South African as the most complete fast bowler in contemporary cricket. Steyn, however, thinks differently. “I have to learn a lot. I don’t think you stop learning in this game even after you retire. The game is developing all the time and nobody is an expert in this game.

“That’s the nature of the beast; the game moves forward and we’re just part of the show, so there’s still a lot to learn I guess. That’s the exciting part of it,” he says.

What is his biggest challenge as a bowler?

“There is nothing like that really. Every year the batsmen are finding new shots, finding new scoring areas. Bowlers are finding ways to restrict them. If you just watch someone like AB de Villiers batting at the moment, you kind of look for a weakness and there are not many. And to be totally honest with you, he is one of those handful of players that have developed skills like that,” Steyn points out.

“The challenge this year (in the IPL) is to sit down and work out a way by which I can make a difference in the game in only 24 balls because that’s the only part I can play in the game. When you’re an opening batsman you can play for 20 overs… I get only 24 balls to influence a game. So, the challenge for me is to make a massive impact on the game in a very short space,” Steyn says.

“It is important you sit down and do your homework as a bowler. I always tell the guys that this game (T20) is against us. You gonna get hit for a six, go for a four, but that’s the nature of the beast. But when a batsman makes a mistake, you can get him out. So, that’s the plus side. We’ll figure it out when we come across guys who have game plans; we’ll have our own plan how to restrict them from causing damage (to us),” he says.

Reflecting on India’s tour of South Africa later this year, Steyn is of the view that there is still a lot of cricket to be played in 2013. “We’ve got IPL, the Champions Trophy; we then have to go to Sri Lanka and then to Dubai to play Pakistan before the India tour. It’s a long way away right now,” he says.

On being a member of the South African team that is World No. 1 in Test rankings, Steyn says: “We really worked hard to reach the pinnacle.

“It was a collective effort by everyone, and there are many far beyond the boundary of the field who have contributed to it. Overall, we are pleased even though we are aware that staying at the top is even more difficult.”