A return to international action any time soon is looking increasingly unlikely for Dale Steyn after the 37-year-old fast bowler was omitted from a 45-man Cricket South Africa (CSA) high performance squad that resumed training this week in small, monitored groups with their franchise coaches.
And, judging by the statement released by CSA to explain Steyn’s absence, it looked as if the country’s leading wicket-taker was once again struggling with injury.
“Dale is not available to take part in the high performance training programme at this stage,” CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith said in a statement.
“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.”
The nature of his ailment was clouded in uncertainty, but apparently they were just niggles.
Steyn missed last year’s World Cup due to long-standing shoulder problems and had played just eight Tests, nine ODIs and five T20 Internationals for the Proteas in the last three years.
In August, Steyn announced his retirement from Test cricket in order to prolong his white-ball career and was targeting the ICC World T20 Cup in Australia in October. But with a fresh Covid-19 outbreak in Victoria, it was doubtful the tournament would take place this year.
There was better news though for several uncapped players as they received confirmation that they were in the Proteas’ plans for the future.
Experienced leg-spinner Shaun von Berg, batsmen Ed Moore, Raynard van Tonder, Sarel Erwee, Tony de Zorzi, Rudi Second, Keegan Petersen and Marques Ackerman, all-rounders Sisanda Magala and Gerald Coetzee, and pace bowlers Glenton Stuurman and Nandre Burger were all called up for training.
The high performance squad also offered the chance of an international reprieve for the likes of batsmen Pite van Biljon, Khaya Zondo and Theunis de Bruyn, fast bowlers Junior Dala and Daryn Dupavillon, all-rounder Wiaan Mulder and spinner Senuran Muthusamy.
Champion limited-overs leg-spinner Imran Tahir was training with the Dolphins in Durban, but while Chris Morris was still available for the 3TCricket event that would herald the return of cricket in the coming weeks, he was not included in the Proteas’ plans.
High Performance Squad
Batsmen: Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen, Ed Moore, Pieter Malan, Dean Elgar, Pite van Biljon, David Miller, Zubayr Hamza, Temba Bavuma, Raynard van Tonder, Sarel Erwee, Janneman Malan, Aiden Markram, Reeza Hendricks, Khaya Zondo, Tony de Zorzi, Theunis de Bruyn, Rudi Second, Heinrich Klaasen, Kyle Verreynne, Keegan Petersen, Faf du Plessis, Marques Ackerman.
Spinners: Shaun von Berg, Keshav Maharaj, George Linde, Bjorn Fortuin, Senuran Muthusamy, Tabraiz Shamsi, Imran Tahir
All-rounders: Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Sisanda Magala, Gerald Coetzee, Jon-Jon Smuts, Wiaan Mulder,
Fast bowlers: Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Glenton Stuurman, Junior Dala, Kagiso Rabada, Daryn Dupavillon, Nandre Burger, Lutho Sipamla, Beuran Hendricks.