TELFORD VICE, Mohali
DALE Steyn doesn’t flinch at grabbing a headline by the throat, and he was aiming for the front page’s jugular on Tuesday.
“Hellohellohellohellohellohellohellohellohellohellohellohellohello,” was his warm-up into the recording devices waiting silently for his press conference to start.
Then he bounced a reporter for alleging that he had bowled at less than express pace in SA’s one-day series in India: “I’ve been watching the ODIs, so I don’t know what you were watching.”
But those were only looseners for this: “I love bowling in India …”
What? The greatest fast bowler of the age enjoys bowling on the yellow submarine that is the average Indian pitch, where bounce goes to die and movement off the seam happens only when the ball hits a broom left by an errant groundsman? Has Steyn gone mad? No.
“ … because the grounds are quite flat. In SA, you’ve got this massive table where the pitches are and it feels like you are running uphill when you have to bowl, whereas here it feels like you are on a tartan track.
“You are running flat, so you don’t have that extra leg workout. You almost feel like you are running downhill all day long, even though the wickets are not offering you a lot of pace and carry.
“Your run-up always feels smooth and the ball tends to always come out quite nicely. You are able to push on all the time.
“It’s not like at the Wanderers where, at five in the afternoon when you’ve been bowling all day, it’s, ‘Now I have to run up this hill to bowl’.”
Who saw that coming: a googly from a fast bowler.
Enough with the opinion. What do the facts say?
In 19 tests in Asia, Steyn has taken 90 wickets at 22.33. In the 17 other away tests he has played, those figures are 77 at 27.01. At home, his average is 21.43. Overall, it’s 22.48.
So, next to sunny SA, maybe he really does enjoy bowling in India.
Even so, Steyn knew he and the rest of SA’s pace attack would have to box clever in the test series, which starts in Mohali on Thursday.
“With the wickets being on the slow side, anything from 135 (kilometres per hour) down batsmen are able to make the adjustment when the ball hits the deck,” he said.
“It’s the guys who bowl 145-plus who really rush batsmen. That gives you a lot less time to adjust when the ball is reversing or there is a bit of something off the deck.”
The darker art of bowling, he said, was “about getting into (the batsman’s) head a little bit – maybe looking at his last 10 dismissals and seeing if there has been an area where he has gotten out.
“It’s about putting a guy there and making the batsman aware: ‘I know that’s where you have gotten out, I know you are uncomfortable getting out there because the stats tell me in your last 10 dismissals you’ve been out there eight times.
“‘I am going to put a guy there and I am going to tell you about it, too. And if you get out to him, I am going to laugh at you’”.
And what happens if, after all that planning and plotting, and scheming and strategising, Steyn’s first ball of the series doesn’t quite reach the height of the batsman’s knees as it droops towards the wicketkeeper?
“I’m smiling, because I can get him out lbw all day long.”
Headlines, he has a few.