Skipper Smith SA’s top target

TMG Digital


DALE Steyn’s mood was as bright as the neon sunlight that gleamed off his mirrored shades as he swanned about the banks of the Swan River in Perth on Sunday.

The pace ace posed for selfies selflessly and signed autographs automatically, and earned probably the biggest roar of the lot when members of the Australian and South African teams were introduced to the crowd gathered at the launch of this week’s test series.

But, nice guy or not, he was still Dale Steyn.

“I want to make life difficult for everyone,” he said when asked if Mitchell Marsh, who has reached 50 only once in his last 22 completed test innings, would be singled out for special attention when the first test starts at the WACA on Thursday.

Then he took a leaf out of the Aussies’ own playbook by emphasising the importance of making life especially difficult for the captain, in this case Steven Smith.

“I think the captain is the main guy,” Steyn said. “So if you can cut off the head of the snake the rest of the body tends to fall.

“We’ve done that in the past. We’ve tried to attack the captain because he is the leader.

“Cause a bit of chaos there and sometimes it does affect the rest of the guys.”

Says who? Says history. At least, according to Steyn.

“Look at great players like Steve Waugh – he stands out. I don’t think many people can name a team underneath him but you remember Steve Waugh.

“The moment you can get hold of the captain … the rest of the players, in my opinion, rely heavily on him.”

Some might also remember that other Waugh, Mark, as well as Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, all of whom played for Australia under Steve Waugh.

But we get the picture Steyn was trying to paint.

In case we didn’t he used his metaphorical brush to slap on another layer.

“(The captain) leads the ship so when you pull the plug on it and he’s holding it you can sink it.

“It’s not very easy but there’s a way to sink it.”

Steyn puts his money where his mouth is, what with former Australian captain Michael Clarke at the head of the queue of batsmen he has dismissed most in tests.

Clarke was in Steyn’s pocket nine times in the 14 matches they played against each other, though Clarke was captain in only four of them.

Subjecting the skipper to serious scrutiny is a trick the Aussies have turned on SA too many times for it not to be noticed.

Mitchell Johnson had Graeme Smith’s number more than any other bowler – nine times in 11 tests – while Shane Warne was the least favourite bowler for Shaun Pollock and Hansie Cronje, dismissing them six and eight times in 13 and 12 tests respectively.

Then again, Johnson and Warne were exceptional bowlers who have many of the game’s best batsmen high on their personal hit lists.

Smith, under pressure after leading his team to a 3-0 drubbing in a test series in Sri Lanka in August and a 5-0 one-day hiding in SA earlier in October, will not need reminding that Steyn is in the same league as Johnson and Warne.

But Steyn, nice guy that he is, will be sure to do so anyway.


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