Dale Steyn can send shivers down a batsman’s spine. However, off the field, Steyn, who will turn 32 next month, comes across as one of the nicest guys on the international circuit. It is his humble upbringing that keeps him grounded, he says.
Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer Dale Steyn fields questions at a city hotel earlier this week. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
In a free-wheeling chat with mid-day ahead of Thursday’s Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Indian Premier League clash against Rajasthan Royals, Steyn, for the first time, opened up about Grant Elliott’s gesture after the New Zealander hit him for a six on the penultimate ball of the last over to send South Africa out of the World Cup in the thrilling semi-final at Auckland last March. A devastated Steyn lied down on the pitch, weeping when Elliott stretched out his hand to pick him up. That picture went viral on the Internet and gave sportsmanship a great name.
New Zealand’s Grant Elliott picks up a disappointed Dale Steyn after guiding his side to a 2015 World Cup semi-final win over South Africa at Eden Park in Auckland on March 24. Pic/Getty Images
Steyn also spoke about not being the first choice bowler for Hyderabad in IPL-8, his fast bowling idols and why India isn’t a fast bowling nation.
Q. What did Elliott’s gesture mean to you?
A. I was kind of lying on my back, trying to take stock of things that happened. You train for four years for that tournament and it disappeared like this… in a flash. It was comforting to see a man stand and give out his hand. And it also takes a man to stretch out his hand and accept the humble gesture. I liked it, it was great. I felt I had spent enough time on the ground and it was time to get up (laughs). Grant was the perfect man to pick me up. It was a perfect moment.
Q. Did the gesture surprise you?
A. I hope such gestures happen often. It is something I would also like to do and expect my team to do. No matter what happens on the field, it should stay there. We appreciate good sportsmanship. It wasn’t something that was planned. It was just so natural. It is one of my best cricketing moments.
Q. Is it tough to sit out for most of Hyderabad’s matches?
A. No, it’s fine. Our strength is bowling. We have a lot of Indian bowlers — Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Karn Sharma. So, there’s only one spot available for a (overseas) seamer. Unfortunately, our batting in the middle is not doing that well, otherwise it would have been fantastic. Had our batting in the middle done well, Trent Boult and myself would have got more chances to play together. I have always been a fan of a guy who is in-form because that wins you games. Luckily, I have always been that guy for South Africa and SRH. This time we have Boult, who came from a fantastic World Cup campaign so he is the ideal pick.
Q. Do you reckon the IPL organisers should relax the four-foreign player rule for a few matches?
A. It is the Indian Premier League and not the Overseas Premier League. It is important that more Indians play. It is difficult for the fans when world-class overseas players are on the bench. Fans have paid to see them in action. If the rules are relaxed, then it will be an exhibition match. Look at the English Premier League where some clubs don’t have a single English player. If they (IPL organisers) want, they can increase it to five overseas player (in the playing XI).
Q. Who were your fast bowling idols?
A. When I grew up, I didn’t really follow cricket. I never had a satellite TV (Steyn lives in Phalaborwa, a small town in SA). When I first watched cricket, it was from old videos that my cousins and family had in 1992. Then I went to a boarding school and there was no TV there too. My cricketing knowledge was really bad. It was only when I finished with my schooling at 19 that I started catching up on history as I missed out on the whole bunch. The first first-class game that I watched was the one which I played in. Till then, I played cricket in small villages.
I really enjoyed watching Allan Donald and Shoaib Akhtar for sheer pace. That’s when I realised I wanted to do this. I loved Brett Lee. I was a change-room attendant and a net bowler in the 2003 World Cup. It was the best thing ever to see how they ran in and bowled at that speed.
Q. Is fast bowling a natural phenomenon?
A. It is a natural thing. It is not something you can train and develop. I would like to cite the examples of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and myself. We are all the same height, weight and similar body shape. But trust me, Faf and AB can’t bowl more than 120kmph while I can’t reverse sweep and scoop like them. Bowling fast is a gift. Firstly, it is important to bowl at 145kmph. There are various things like fire in the belly, the hunger, the wind behind you or the fast pitches that give you that extra push. Bowling fast is pretty much a combination of these factors.
Q. Why is India not crazy about producing fast bowlers?
A. You have a population of a billion people and I am sure you’ll can find someone who can bowl fast or has the ability to bowl fast. The population of South Africa is the same as the amount of people living in Kolkata (laughs). In South Africa, we have plenty of fast bowlers. Unfortunately, pitches in India aren’t conducive for extreme fast bowling. So, the encouragement about bowling fast is not as much as compared to what we have. We also have a rich tradition of fast bowling.
Q. So, India lacks in rich tradition?
A. When you speak of India, you talk about spinning pitches and great spinners. It is also less strenuous on your body. It could also be because India does not play a lot of contact sport. They don’t have that mental strength to sustain the power for a lot longer.
I think the current guys — Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and Ishant — are strong. They are modern cricketers who can take a hit. Maybe, 20 years ago that wouldn’t have been the case. Your tradition will start from now on. A lot more kids will look at them and the overseas pacers playing in the IPL, and get inspired to bowl fast.