Steyn: Still a moggy magician

Dale Steyn (Gallo)
Dale Steyn (Gallo)

Cape Town – Television pundit HD Ackerman reminded afresh on SuperSport on Thursday that champion athlete Dale Steyn has a “horrible diet”.

The Phalaborwa Express, he explained in tribute to the Proteas spearhead becoming only the second South African to reach 400 Test wickets in Dhaka, was not averse to starting (and maybe even ending?) his day with a Coca-Cola and packet of crisps.

Not exactly what the team dietician would have at front of mind, you’d think ... but then who is going to have the stupidity to tell this mightily durable, largely injury-free and established great of the game to fix his culinary ways?

I can vouch for that eccentricity in eating patterns ... some nine years ago, and when Steyn’s tally of Test caps read eight rather than its current 80, I earmarked him as cover personality of the month for the former The Wisden Cricketer magazine and duly flew to the Highveld to undertake the accompanying interview and monitor the photo shoot.

I would later describe him as “endearingly loskop” because just nailing him down for the rendezvous had contained certain perils – largely related to his confessed penchant for losing cell-phones.

“I’ve gone through at least five,” the then 23-year-old revealed. “They get stolen, I leave them in bags, rooms ... I’m trying to get better.”

He’d also asked, in a sign of youthful scattiness, for a short postponement of the meeting at the eleventh hour, leaving me the following SMS: “Hi Rob! Just wana ask if I can meet u early Tues morn instead ... fly back 2mor (from a Titans domestic game) but gana be busy with a few things I gata do! Cheers, Dale.”

Eventually, we met at 07:00 in the slightly unorthodox venue of his Titans-branded Mazda 3 in the SuperSport Park car-park, with most of the stadium’s padlocks still firmly fastened. He politely whipped some passenger-seat clutter to the floor so I could join him in the front.

But that was not before, a few minutes earlier, I’d just caught sight of him scuttling out of the fast-food franchise at a nearby petrol station as I entered it (journalists can eat what they like, after all) ... armed with a Fanta Grape and a pie of undetectable choice.

Ah, the breakfast of soon-to-be champions ...

Here is a selection of his thoughts in October 2006:

*On whether he considered himself a sledger ...

“Not really. More of a starer, then get back to my mark and think next ball. I’m not shy to say a word, but I try to let the ball do the talking, by and large.”

*On bouncer role models ...

“I think guys like Makhaya (Ntini) and Shane Bond, because they bring the ball back into the right-handers. You duck and the ball follows you; that’s why Makhaya hits a lot of guys snot on the head. (Brett) Lee too ... from a pure pace point of view.

*On quickening up with age ...

“I read something in which Lee reckoned fast bowlers only reached maturity and possibly even maximum pace around 30. That’s interesting to read considering I’ve got seven years on him. I’d love to be able to put my hand up and say ‘I’ve reached the 160km/h milestone’. You don’t want to make rash promises but I’m not that far away.”

*On whether there is some sort of ceiling for pace ...

“There must be millions of people just like me, dreaming, believing, that they can be the fastest bowler on earth. I don’t know what the ceiling is, but you’d like to think the time is not too far away for someone to be bowling consistently at 160. Maybe in 10, 20 years time there’s just this magic kid who appears, and blows all records to pieces.”

*On (now very long-time) pace ally Morne Morkel ...

“Unbelievable. Every time he’s got the ball in his hand you think something special could happen. Not just me, a lot of people think he’s much closer to national honours than many realise. He’s 22 now; looks pretty thin because he’s so tall and has those long arms and legs. But he gyms every day; he’s a workhorse. When he takes his shirt off he’s as big as anyone. Serious skill, serious player.”

*On Ray Jennings (not too long earlier discarded as SA coach) ...

“Um, I don’t think we got along badly ... if I think about it, I was still pretty new to top-flight cricket at the time and may have made mistakes where I thought I was doing the right thing: a little bit young and arrogant. He could see my wrongs, so we may have clashed a bit. I can see now why he challenged me, in fairness to Ray.”

*On (successor) Mickey Arthur ...

“I’ve got to know Mickey pretty well now after a couple of longish tours together ... he understands the kind of person I am, a bit of a moonchild and all that.”

Proteas enthusiasts of 2015 will be hoping the sun doesn’t set any time soon on this particular moonchild.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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