By Ian Pont
Dale Steyn could develop into the most effective fast bowler of all time and that’s a prediction I don’t make lightly.
Even though Steyn, who destroyed the Indian line up in the first Test in Nagpur by taking his international best haul of 7 wickets in the first innings and 10 in the match, is already ranked number one in the world, his stock could go to a higher level and continues its upward trend. At this moment, no one is remotely in his league when it comes to effectiveness with a ball in all conditions.
Steyn is a wonderful bowler who can bowl with pace, swing, reverse swing and huge control. And these are skills he has developed over time as well as making his action more consistent. Indeed, one of the things he has mastered is control and aggression to pierce even the most resistant of defences. Steyn’s statistics bear this out as he is already approaching 200 test wickets in just his 37th match at an average around 23 runs per wicket, with a wicket every 38 balls.
Not bad for a lad who was virtually written off a few years earlier.
When he first came to Essex as an overseas ‘unknown’, there was this raw, young, inexperienced kid who had some basic things to work on. He went through a dreadful time and was widely dismissed by most people. Once, in a home game when I took a drink around to him to have a chat while in the middle of a spell he said ‘’if there is a flight home tonight I will be happy if Essex sent me home’’, such was the mental state he had gotten into over his lack of control. He had put himself under immense pressure. Few recognised the potential in him. So in the six weeks together we worked hard on his mental approach, his technique and ability to control what he was doing. I really feel this got him on the right road.
Now we are all starting to see just how special he truly is. He is smart and knows when to crank things up or use the conditions to his advantage. This could make him the most-effective fast bowler of his generation – and perhaps of all-time – because he has many great years ahead.
Steyn has replaced Brett Lee and Shoaib Akthar as the world’s premier fast bowler during the past 12 months and continues to evolve.
The Indian conditions are widely-reported as not being suitable for fast bowlers yet Steyn is showing how to bowl on those sub-continent pitches. And the current series could be decisive for blowing the myth that pace cannot work in India. The secret always is to be aggressive, bowl hard into the pitch in the areas you wish to hit and stick to a plan.
I think if you know how to bowl and where to bowl, the conditions are not about the pitch or the atmosphere, but in your head. Dale performs all around the world, not just in South Africa.
[The author is Founding Partner, Mavericks Cricket Institute (MCI) in UK and is the founder of ABSAT Coaching Methods. He has written two books on coaching - The Fast Bowler's Bible and Coaching Youth Cricket. Ian has made three coaching visits to the US in the last two years coaching on behalf of DreamCricket Academy.]