South Africa’s premier bowler Dale Steyn has spoken out about the world’s best, as the Proteas prepare for a busy season ahead.
He reached the top of the ICC Test rankings May 2008 and has since wrestled the title away from the constant challenge of Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Mularidharan.
“It was really cool when I first reached number one,” Steyn told journalists during a Proteas conditioning and fitness camp at the High Performance Centre at Tuks University this week, “My girlfriend was with me, and I think she was even more excited about it.”
Steyn said he felt no pressure about maintaining his number one status: “I feel far more pressure from my team-mates and from the guys who are knocking on the door,” he said.
“We are trying to find the perfect fit for the team, and I think if you had two or three bad matches, you could well find yourself on the bench and the young guys coming up would have an opportunity to show what they can do, and you could find yourself right on the outside. Then the number one world ranking would mean nothing.
“It also depends on conditions, the World Cup is going to be played in spin-friendly conditions, so challenges for places are also coming from players like Roelf (van der Merwe), Paul Harris and Johan Botha. So I really can’t rest on my laurels and just say ‘I’m world number one’.”
Steyn and the rest of the Proteas are in training for a hectic schedule that includes a one-day international (ODI) series against Zimbabwe, a Test and limited overs series against Pakistan in Dubai, a tour of South Africa by India, and the 2011 ICC World Cup.
While coach Corrie van Zyl has said that the World Cup is just part of the bigger picture, Steyn had no doubts about the team’s priorities for the coming season: “Let’s be honest, if you had the choice between a home series win against India or the World Cup, there’s no doubt what the guys would choose,” he laughed, “The other things are important, but we really want to bring that cup home.”
He rejected the allegation that the Proteas were chokers, never able to achieve victory in major tournaments: “I’m fairly new to World Cups,” he said, “My first one was the Twenty20 in England, and then just over a year later, we were playing one again in the West Indies.
“We’d barely had time to recuperate from the first before we were playing in the second. But that doesn’t make us chokers. We didn’t go to those T20 tournaments to lose, we were all bitterly disappointed.”
/ Simon Willmore