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Steyn: I’m cool with the No.1 strike bowler label

‘Shoaib was venomous and could have killed batsmen’
EXCLUSIVE
Dale Steyn

Calcutta: Dale Steyn’s middle name could well have been ‘Executioner’ instead of Willem. Such has been his impact ever since his debut for South Africa, nine years ago.

On Friday, after some below-par spells, Steyn struck as only he can and picked up six for 100 in India’s (first) innings at Kingsmead. Indeed, in a matter of a few overs, the visitors let go their advantage.

Steyn, who has already taken 347 wickets in Test cricket, recently spoke to The Telegraph for half-an-hour.

Excerpts...

QIs pace everything for a fast bowler?

A Not really, for the length is as valuable. But there are times when the fast bowlers can do things which others can’t.

Who, according to you, is a fast bowler?

Not the guys who bowl 130-135 kmph, but the ones who consistently are over 140... I’m a fast bowler and I’m picked to bowl fast.

It’s important to strike fear in the hearts of batsmen...

Yeah... Batsmen are wary of the guys who bowl fast. Captains love to have a spinner who can make a difference, someone who can spin a mile, and they love to have a bowler who can bowl really fast.

How would you describe your mindset?

(Laughs) I just chill.

Are you conscious of being the world’s No.1 strike bowler? Are you conscious of that label?

I can’t get away from it... That’s one of the first things to hit me whenever I open the newspapers... I don’t have to say anything, the experts keep saying I’m the top spearhead... I’m cool with the No.1 strike bowler label... I wanted to bowl fast and here I am.

Hunting in pairs...

It depends on the team you are in.

What fired you up in your younger days?

The desire to be the best fast bowler. My motto, in fact, is to be the best in whatever I do. Now that my dream has been realised, I have to keep living up to the expectations... My own and that of the others. If I’m to reflect, I don’t know what attracted me to fast bowling, though.

So, what do you do to live up to the expectations?

Train harder, practice harder... I know that I have to put in the hours to operate at the level people expect me to.

To the uninitiated, what’s life like in the fast lane?

It’s cool! Look, I’ve always seen life through my eyes... It’s nice that I can do things which most of the others can’t. So, it’s fun being in the fast lane.

Have you had a role model?

Call me someone who is a fan of fast bowling... But, yes, I have admired quite a few from my tribe.

Like?

Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee and Allan Donald.

All have retired...

Yeah... Allan’s been a big fan of my bowling, but I was a bigger fan of his... Early on, I began celebrating the way Brett used to do. It seemed he enjoyed everything he did... Shoaib was venomous and could have killed batsmen. He took a batsman apart (mentally).

Among the present lot, who do you rate highly?

There’s Morne Morkel, Mitchell Johnson, Tino Best... Mitchell’s bowling really fast. Isn’t it a treat watching guys consistently bowl at over 140 kmph?

Is staying fit the No.1 challenge for a fast bowler?

There’s so much of cricket... Staying fit is part of a professional’s routine. Unless you’re fit, you can’t play all the three formats. As you know, I’m 30... Adapting to different conditions and adjusting to the formats is very challenging... You have to choose how much of what you’ll be playing. One has to be careful.

Which format challenges you the most?

Not T20, but Test cricket.

Why?

Because the contest is over five days, not a few hours. Test cricket tests your skill, your mind and your body... It’s with a reason that they say Test cricket is the ultimate test.

Are you suggesting T20 isn’t taxing at all?

It does tax the mind.

How would you judge a fast bowler?

Somebody who lands the ball in an area where the batsman doesn’t know whether to go forward or back would do for me.

Is there a fast bowlers’ club?

I do interact with some of the guys... I’m in touch with them on Twitter.

What’s your preferred mode of relaxing, especially after a tough day?

(Smiles) I’d love to say I like going to the beach and love surfing with my dogs, but that doesn’t happen too often... As one is touring so much, one could go out for meals with mates or get on to Skype. Chatting with friends would do.

Cricket, then, isn’t everything...

There are lots of important things in life, other than having a bad day with the ball or the team having a bad day. A lot of worse things could happen. It’s important to be in the real world.

You grew up admiring skate-boarder Geoff Rowley (Jr). Few in this part of the world have heard of him... What made him special for you?

Geoff was as hard as nails and never gave up.

What did you learn from Rowley?

That there’ll be more bad days than good days... That I’d lose more battles than I’d win... I could beat a batsman five times in an over, but to win the battle, I have to get him out. Beating a batsman isn’t good enough... Geoff may not have had every trick in the book, but he never gave up... I’d like to add that Tiger Woods and Roger Federer have, generally, been inspirational.

Inspirational too has been teammate Jacques Kallis...

Jacques has been amazing. A great cricketer and a great human being.

Lastly... What would you like the young ones dreaming to be like you to do?

They should have around them people with a good influence on their cricket... The type to make a difference... Be in the midst of people who will have a positive influence. To improve and to realise dreams, you need to be with people who’ll send you in the right direction. The bottom line: Learn.