TELFORD VICE, Kingsmead
DALE Steyn limps off, stage left. Injured. Again. South Africans have been shot in this movie before – nine times since June 2013.
It’s all very well being able to send the world’s No. 1 fast bowler onto the field with licence to kill for wickets, but that doesn’t amount to much if his guns keep jamming.
Steyn’s weaponry has done just that with alarming frequency since the 2013 Champions Trophy, when he missed three of SA’s seven games because of a groin strain.
Since then, he has tweaked a hamstring – on four different occasions – and suffered a side strain, a fractured rib, another groin strain, and now this: a shoulder problem that prevented him from bowling more than 23 deliveries in England’s second innings in the first test at Kingsmead.
It’s a sorry tale that has cost him three test caps and limited his involvement in four others. He has missed 21 one-day internationals and 17 Twenty20s during the same period, though more in an effort to ration the fuel left in the tank of this Ferrari.
Even though all that hurting has not had a marked effect on his wicket-taking – he claimed 5.10 scalps a test before June 2013 and has taken 4.35 since then – it’s enough to depress SA fans. Think, then, how it makes Steyn feel.
Here’s what he tweeted just more than an hour before the start of the first test on Saturday: “Boxing Day Test Match! F*k I’m excited!!!! Rain can kindly bugger off now please.”
The next day, after Steyn had felt the first pangs of his new pain, his enthusiasm had waned: “Shoulder is seer pal … Waiting for da drugs (legal) to kick in! Haha.”
Ominously for young people everywhere, the start of Steyn’s physical decline coincided with his 30th birthday on June 27 2013.
However, most young people do not make a living straining their bodies to the limit thousands of times a year in matches and in the nets, not to mention putting up with the pressure of being expected to win every time they go to the office.
Steyn is a rare athlete, even among fast bowlers. At 1.78 metres tall and wiry, he would look small next to a modern scrumhalf. Supreme fitness, a magnificent madness, and enough talent for a player twice his size has made him the star he is.
But Steyn, at 32 but with way more miles on the clock than he should have at that age, must be closer to the end of his career than South Africans would like to think.
Even Ferraris wear out.