- Dale Steyn was not included in a 45-man extended high-performance Proteas training squad this week
- CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith says Steyn's fitness will be monitored in the months to come
- Steyn has expressed an interest to play in the next T20 World Cup, which is scheduled for October but will almost certainly be postponed
When Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced an extended training squad of 45 players on Monday, Dale Steyn was a notable absentee.
The list goes far and wide, including some players nearing the end of the international careers like Imran Tahir and Faf du Plessis, and numerous others who are looking to break into the system like Sarel Erwee, Daryn Dupavillon, Keagan Petersen, Edward Moore, Raynaard van Tonder, Gerald Coetzee, Tony de Zorzi, Nandre Burger and Marques Ackerman.
As cricket looks to return to play following over three months of lockdown as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, the immediate and obvious priority for South Africa is preparing for the T20 World Cup in Australia.
That tournament is still scheduled for October this year, but it will almost certainly not go ahead then given the fact that Australia has still not eradicated the virus while international travel into the country is the other major concern.
Regardless of when the T20 World Cup does take place, Tahir, Steyn and, possibly, Du Plessis would have been eyeing the showpiece as a potential swansong in Proteas colours.
The fact that the 41-year-old Tahir has been included in the extended training squad is telling. He clearly wants to play for South Africa again.
Steyn, meanwhile, turned 37 over the weekend.
A year ago, he left South Africa's 50-over World Cup squad in England injured and without having played a game at the tournament.
There were many who, back then, understandably believed that one of South Africa's greatest ever cricketing products had reached the end of the road.
It came as somewhat of a surprise when he then re-committed his future to the national cause, saying that he wanted to play the T20 World Cup.
Despite his age, Steyn's skill level and his experience on the biggest stages will always make him an attractive option as long as he is available.
This latest development and the word out of CSA, however, will again raise questions around his future and that, perhaps, time is up.
"Dale is not available to take part in the high performance training programme at this stage," was the word from CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith on Tuesday.
"Cricket South Africa’s medical team is monitoring his fitness and are in constant contact with his medical team in Cape Town.
"We will evaluate his progress over the next few months and go with the advice of the experts in regards to the next steps."
That statement did not specify what aspects of his fitness Steyn was currently struggling with, but it might not be one particular thing.
The years of hitting decks hard all over the world, being a warrior for his country, might have finally caught up with a man who will go down as one of the greats to have ever played the game.
What the 45-man list does illustrate is a depth in quality that South African cricket clearly still possesses.
There can never be a replacement for a player of Steyn's quality, but perhaps the time has come to start looking to the future instead of to the past.
The players included in the training squad will link up with their nearest franchises and get to work in small, isolated groups as CSA unrolls a return to play policy that places safety as the ultimate priority.
CSA High Performance Training Squad
Quinton de Kock (Titans), Dean Elgar (Titans), Lungi Ngidi (Titans), Aiden Markram (Titans), Junior Dala (Titans), Theunis de Bruyn (Titans), Rassie van der Dussen (Lions), Shaun von Berg (Titans), Dwaine Pretorius (Lions), Henrich Klaasen (Titans), Temba Bavuma (Lions), Reeza Hendricks (Lions), Kagiso Rabada (Lions), Tabraiz Shamsi (Titans), Wiaan Mulder (Lions), Bjorn Fortuin (Lions), Andile Phehlukwayo (Dolphins), David Miller (Dolphins), Sarel Erwee (Dolphins), Khaya Zondo (Dolphins), Daryn Dupavillon (Dolphins), Keshav Maharaj (Dolphins), Senuran Muthusamy (Dolphins), Keagan Petersen (Dolphins), Imran Tahir (Dolphins), Lutho Sipamla (Lions), Edward Moore (Warriors), Anrich Nortje (Warriors), Sisanda Magala (Warriors), Glenton Stuurman (Warriors), Jon-Jon Smuts (Warriors), Rudi Second (Warriors), Pite van Biljon (Knights), Raynaard van Tonder (Knights), Gerald Coetzee (Knights), Pieter Malan (Cape Cobras), Zubayr Hamza (Cape Cobras), Janneman Malan (Cape Cobras), Faf du Plessis (Titans), Tony de Zorzi (Cape Cobras), Beuran Hendricks (Lions), Nandre Burger (Cape Cobras), George Linde (Cape Cobras), Kyle Verreynne (Cape Cobras), Marques Ackerman (Dolphins)