South Africa’s bowling spearhead Dale Steyn says it will take some time for the Proteas to recover from their bad recent form but he is confident they have it in them to return to the number one ranking in Test cricket.
The South Africans host New Zealand in a two-Test series starting at Kingsmead in Durban on Friday and, for probably the first time ever, the Black Caps (5th) are ranked ahead of the Proteas (6th). And it’s by some margin too – seven ratings points – thanks to South Africa winning just one of their last 10 Tests.
“The way to get back to number one is by winning games, which happens by individuals playing good hands, but the team has to always be the focus. There’s no AB de Villiers, so Faf du Plessis has had to step up as captain and other people must do that too in their different roles.
“I’m excited to be back and I’m determined to help get us back up there in the rankings. The immediate goal is to get back into the top three, but I believe we have the potential to get back to number one. But it’s not going to happen overnight; it’s a process that’s going to take a couple of years,” Steyn said at Kingsmead.
There is no doubt that the veins in Steyn’s neck will bulge in trademark fashion as he returns to Test action for the first time in eight months, but the veteran of 82 Tests knows he must not try to be too greedy in his long-awaited comeback game.
“I can’t wait for the Test to start; it’s been very frustrating. There just kept on being new struggles. First my groin and then I broke my shoulder, so it’s been an extended break. I might have been guilty of trying to go from nought to 100 too quickly. Like they say with a Ferrari, you must drive a thousand kilometres in it first before you try to go 200km/h!
“The ball has been coming out nicely, and quickly, in the nets, but I just want to get through the season without injury. Test cricket requires a lot more patience; it’s a waiting game, like fishing, and as a fisherman I can appreciate that. I like it when I can attack for long periods, stick to those hard lengths with a few bouncers,” Steyn said.
There’s no lack of belief in Steyn, and neither should there be given his amazing past exploits, especially against New Zealand (58 wickets in 10 Tests at 17.05) and even more so in “winter” Tests. And it seems the rest of the Proteas team are in pretty confident mood as well, with even De Villiers speaking boldly about how he expects victory.
“I wouldn’t say we’re in a transitional phase because this is still a fantastic team that can beat anyone. I’m really backing our boys and even though the Black Caps are clearly a force to be reckoned with, I think New Zealand could be a bit thin in the batting department and, if they don’t score big runs, they’ll be in trouble. I don’t think they have an advantage from playing Tests recently. All our guys have played enough cricket and it was much more important for us to connect as players at our culture camp we had five days ago,” De Villiers said.
“We were brutally honest with each other about where we are as a team and where we would like to see ourselves. We know exactly where we want to go. We had a lot of hard chats about what is wrong, what issues there are, behind our dip in form.
“A big part of our success in the past has been our culture and we revisited our core values, who we play for, and I believe we’ve really moved forward.”