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Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Sports

An over with Steyn

Look all you want but finding a more well-rounded, genial and laidback fast bowler than Dale Steyn will be a tough task. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Star Sport's Quazi Zulquarnain Islam and Mohammad Isam, the steely Steyn speaks of his philosophy on life, interest in photography, adulation for Shaun Pollock and Jose Mourinho's professionalism. Dale Steyn is truly the speedster for the next generation. Following is an excerpt from the lively encounter with the South African at the poolside of the Dhaka Sheraton Hotel:

The Daily Star Sport (DSS): Welcome Dale! How has Bangladesh been for you so far?

Dale Steyn (DS): On the field it has been good. It's nice when you are winning. Off the field we really haven't had much time off. Today is really the first day we have had to relax.

DSS: You started your career in 2004 but you have played only 18 Tests since then. Having now played a few on the trot do you feel you are here to stay?

DS: I really hope so! There are always other guys coming through, other bowlers like Morne Morkel who basically does the same thing as me … bowls fast. You can never think that your spot is guaranteed. It's good to have pressure from underneath, knowing that there is someone who can take your place.

DSS: You mentioned before the Pakistan tour that Morne's Twenty20 World Cup performance was a 'shock to your system' because it made you feel like your place in the team was not certain...

DS: Actually it might have come out the wrong way. What happened was that, with the form that he (Morne) had, it didn't look like I would get selected. It showed me that you can never ever be certain of your place.

DSS: In the past six months you have taken 49 wickets in 7 Tests. Would you say you are at your peak or can things get better?

DS: (laughs) I don't want to say things can be better. I don't want to say that I am at my peak. I always think there is room for improvement. I am happy with the way I am playing right now but I always strive to do better. Sometimes when the stats get thrown at me it amazes me (pointing at his profile on the table). You look at it and think, that's pretty decent. Records are there to be broken and I want to carry on doing what I am doing.

DSS: So after the first Test, how much of a gap do you think Bangladesh has with the rest of the world?

DS: I don't think there should be a big gap. I think they have proven to the world that they can play. No team takes a lead against South Africa if they aren't a quality side. But you are supposed to carry on from there. They must stand up now and start showing themselves. I think there shouldn't be any excuses for them anymore but they are doing okay. They should keep plugging away until they get the results.

DSS: Anyone special in the Bangladesh team?

DS: They are all pretty decent players. But I can't single out someone, getting whose wicket would make me proud.

DSS: You have seen a lot of New Zealand and West Indies, but not much of our batsmen. Did you have a plan on getting them out?

DS: I think generally in cricket, you keep it simple. I don't think it's an easy game but the way you explain it, is pretty easy; like bowl outside the off-stump. But the difficult part is when you have to do that six times in six balls. Try and make a batsman play his B game and not just his A game.

At this level your strength can be your big weakness. 80 to 90 per cent of the time you keep doing it, that's the kind of thing people like Shaun Pollock and Glenn McGrath have kept doing day in day out. That's why they were the best in the world.

DSS: So you like to hit a batsman?

DS: I don't like hitting a batsman. It knocks the winds out of their sails a little bit but it's an ugly thing.

DSS: ...on the topic of Pollock. With him gone you have big shoes to fill...

DS: (sighs!) I don't think those are my shoes to fill. I have got my own name to make. But he is someone that South Africa are going to miss. He has been there over the years and kept doing it for years and years. So let's hope the guys coming in are up to that standard, and even if they aren't maybe they are close to it because guys like Shaun Pollock set pretty high standards.

DSS: You came into the side after about a year of first-class cricket. But you didn't establish yourself that time. Why?

DS: At that point (in 2004) there were still pretty good players in the team. I hadn't played a lot of cricket. You can't just take a guy who has played seven first-class matches and ask him to maintain the level that everyone else has done over the years.

I had to play cricket. I had to learn more about that game. I had to go to England and I had to keep up with the game playing locally and in England before I could make a name. I wouldn't change anything. This is about the right time I would have settled down.

DSS: Like you were, most players in Bangladesh are picked after only one good season and once they fail at the top level, they are forgotten…

DS: Well, Bangladesh are an upcoming side and so they grab talent when they see it. It's not a bad thing if you can hold on to a rough diamond like that. Take (Mohammad) Ashraful.

He started out really young (at 16) -- an uncut stone and now he is a well-carved diamond. He is one of the lucky ones to have seen it through and now gone on to become captain at 23.

DSS: ...but how about Smith? He came in young...

DS: That's totally different. Him and AB de Villiers who is an unbelievably talented sportsman. You just know that he is going to be a big star and play the most Tests for South Africa when he retires. He knows he belongs, even at this age.

DSS: Do you think your stint in county prepared you for int'l cricket?

DS: Of course. The conditions along with the people I played with, like Ronnie Irani, the Flower brothers, Graham Gooch and James Foster. They really moulded me, playing with them, having a drink with them afterwards. You learn from them who have been there and done that.

DSS: ...any huge influences?

DS: No one specifically, but lately Mark Boucher. He is always able to teach me a thing or two. Listen, listen. And all that!

Also Shaun Pollock. And Allan Donald as well helped me get through the day with a word or two while he was commentating.

DSS: So what's your best moment in cricket so far?

DS: Winning against Pakistan (last year) I think is up there. I don't know when we last did it and you could see the guys in the change room how happy they were.

DSS: So apart from the cricket, how has everything looked in Dhaka?

DS: Well I haven't had much time. I had a haircut today which was okay bar the guy slicing the back of my head open…(laughs!)

I really like fishing and something has been fixed for Chittagong. Where I come from, there are a lot of chances to fish and it's a big hobby of mine.

DSS: ...any other hobbies?

DS: Photography. I am always sneaking around stadiums borrowing the journalist's cameras. I really enjoy it whether it be shooting a twig on water or a bird. If it looks good to me, I like it.

DSS: Other sports?

DS: Skateboarding, surfing and soccer definitely. I support Chelsea now but I fancied Arsenal in high school. I was sad to see Thierry Henry go to Barcelona but I quite enjoyed watching Dennis Bergkamp while I was growing up. But with Chelsea I really liked what Jose Mourinho did.

The way he built the team it was so professional. I really enjoy that, even with someone like Tiger Woods and Polly (Pollock) when he was in the team. It's great to interact with someone like that. I mean I have his number on my phone. How cool is that!

DSS: Who are your sporting heroes?

DS: Jonty Rhodes definitely. With that little dive in 1992 and Hansie Cronje playing those slog sweeps. Windies fast bowlers and Shoaib and Brett Lee when they come in to bowl.

DSS: And what of these rumours of IPL?

DS: Yeah I am turning out for Bangalore Royal Challengers along with a lot of other stars. (DSS: Will that be good for you?) Don't know about my cricket but will be good for my bank balance!

DSS: So what does the future hold for Dale Steyn?

DS: A lot of cricket. I am looking at Chittagong for now. I don't like focusing too much on the future means you get lost in the present.

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