Steyn sets out summer targets
Dale Steyn has two ambitions for summer 2012 - to terrify English batsmen, and lift South Africa to the top of the world Test rankings.
Steyn, officially the world’s number one bowler according to the International Cricket Council, believes South Africa should be there with him.
Instead, it is England who are the current world-beaters - a little more comfortably following today’s annual update - with the tourists demoted to third behind Australia.
Steyn takes issue with that, and is determined to do something about it.
As for his own bowling, he is not too fussed whether he is the world’s fastest - as long as he is terrorising batsmen, and getting plenty of them out too.
He is serious about his role as South Africa’s unrivalled ’quick’, though, the one who intimidates the opposition and takes wickets not just for himself but for fellow seamers Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Jacques Kallis - and maybe leg-spinner Imran Tahir too.
“I’m trying to be the fastest bowler South Africa has when we walk out on to the field - that’s my job,” he said.
“I think there’s times when I can bowl as quick as anybody in the world, but I just want to take wickets - and I want to scare people.”
Steyn is not averse to a little sledging either, but only if he thinks it will help give him and South Africa the edge.
“I try and let the ball do most of the talking,” he said. “However, I am a fast bowler and with that comes a responsibility of saying a word or two, and sometimes getting in a guy’s face.
“It can not only send shivers down the opposition’s spine but it also gets your team up and bouncing around.
“When a captain sees a bowler really getting at a batter, it forces the team to go along with him in the battle.”
Steyn may be judged by some this summer on how his wickets tally measures up to that of his old sparring partner James Anderson.
He will not fall into the trap of comparing his statistics with Anderson’s, but does recall their relevant history in South Africa’s series victory in England four years ago.
Steyn played no further part after the second Test, in which nightwatchman Anderson drove back a ball which broke his thumb at Headingley Carnegie - after he himself had struck the first blow, with a bouncer.
“I remember hitting him on the head; I remember good things like that,” he said.
“He’s a good bloke too, actually; he’s not a bad guy. I honestly couldn’t give ... anything about what Jimmy says to me. I’m probably going to try and do exactly the same thing.
“Once I step over that white line I become the bowler. When I’m sitting down here I’m obviously another guy ... I probably wouldn’t be saying the same things if you did an interview with me out in the middle after I’d taken a wicket. There would be a couple more beeps in it.
“I think that’s what happens when guys walk across the line - they become cricketers, warriors, fighters ... then when they’re sitting around the table they have to say the nicer things.”
Steyn and co had a good work-out in Canterbury yesterday, bowling Kent out for 210 on a slow pitch, before forecast rain washed out all but 22 overs today and restricted South Africa’s reply to 108 for two.
He may well have another chance to fine-tune his rhythm on the final day tomorrow, depending on whether South Africa decide batsmen or bowlers will benefit most from one more opportunity for match practice before the first Test at the Kia Oval.
Whenever he is unleashed again, the 29-year-old will bowl as ever with the venom of an instinctive and lifelong aggressor.
“When I was 13 I always wanted to be part of a cricket team that was the number one in the world; I always wanted to be the number one bowler; I always wanted to be the fastest runner around my house with my mate - and I always wanted to beat him,” he continued.
“I wanted to embarrass him, in all honesty - that’s how much I wanted to beat him.
“In a small way it’s that motivation I need - to know when my team-mates come up to me and say ’you’re not number one in the world for nothing’.
“That’s something that makes me bowl that extra over, maybe bowl a yard quicker.”
Just one last thing then - what about those world rankings?
“I don’t worry about England ... that’s why we’re the number one Test team in my eyes," he added. "I think we’ve got all the players; we cover all our bases.
“Is there something wrong with me thinking we’re the best team in the world?”