Steyn relishes India challenge

Tearaway South Africa speedster Dale Steyn is smacking his lips in anticipation of a battle royal with India’s batsmen in the upcoming three-Test series.

Steyn (24) taught Bangladesh a few lessons in fast bowling in the recent two-Test series, from which he bagged 14 wickets, and is now training his guns on India, who have recently returned from their Australia tour.

The last time he played against India, in 2006/07, Steyn picked up six wickets from two Tests but given his current form, it should come as no surprise if he betters his record.

”I am looking forward to playing against India, especially after their successful tour of Australia. It will be interesting going to India,” Steyn said.

”The good thing is we have been playing quite a bit of cricket on the subcontinent lately in Pakistan and Bangladesh. We won both Test series, so this will be an interesting contest between two good teams.”

Steyn, who recently went past Allan Donald’s record of the quickest South African to 100 Test wickets, however, admits that bowling to Indian batsmen in their own conditions will be a challenge.

”It is going to be tough bowling to any of the batsmen, particularly under conditions that they are used to. They have plenty of depth. The key will be to work on their weaknesses and take it from there.”

Steyn will also rely on his slower ball to unravel the mighty Indian batting line-up during the series, beginning March 26.

”My slower ball really took off when we went to Sri Lanka a couple of seasons ago. Polly [Shaun Pollock] told me that it was a vital weapon to have in my arsenal, particularly in subcontinent conditions.

”It makes a big difference when you are bowling at 145km/h and can suddenly change gear to 110 or less,” said the bowler, who has 105 wickets from 20 Tests.

Steyn added he saw nothing wrong with intimidating batsmen with short balls.

”It is never nice to see somebody get hit on a cricket field but the short ball is part of the game and, if you do hit somebody, it sends shivers down the rest of the batting line-up.

”If a top player can’t handle a short ball, then it is unlikely that those down the order are going to fare any better.

”It is important to show aggression and let the batsman know that you have got the upper hand.”

Steyn, ranked world number two among bowlers behind Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan in official charts, denies feeling any pressure as a result of the constant hype around him.

”I don’t feel I need to prove anything to anybody. If I do well, I am quite happy. At the end of the day it is all about team performance and not about individual achievement.

”There are 10 other guys playing with me and it is all about the team.

”I am hoping that somebody else in our team will come to India and take 20 wickets in the series because, if somebody is doing that, then we are winning as a team.”

The bowler, who will also be seen in action in the inaugural Indian Premier League in India in April and May, is excited about sharing the dressing room with rivals.

”I will have Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis on my side, which will be great but what will be really interesting will be having players like Rahul Dravid and Nathan Bracken as teammates.

”I believe I will learn quite a lot from the experience. It should be a lot of fun and it is great for the players to be so well paid.” — AFP



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Abhaya Srivastava
Abhaya Srivastava is Agence France Presses South Asia special correspondent.

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