March 17, 2011 12:32:20 am
He wasnt the tallest pacer in the world,and neither did he have the accuracy or the mental stamina to be consistent. If someone would have told Ian Pont,the former Essex coach,that the then 19-year old Dale Steyn would go onto become one of the best fast bowlers to have graced the game of cricket,he would have chuckled the English way.
Eight years after the young and brash Steyn trained under him during his County stint,Pont,the current bowling coach of Bangladesh,is busy warning his lads of just what they could expect from the worlds best speedster on Saturday,when South Africa take on the co-hosts.
Dale Steyn going on to become the deadliest bowler in the world. I would have thought you were mad if such a thing had been mentioned during his Essex days. He was short,and did not have the accuracy to even enter a genuine fast bowlers league. But what he did have was a heart,and the ability to bowl fast.
Back then,he had a quick bowlers aggression,but I have seen plenty like those who strayed and ended up doing nothing useful in cricket. He seems to have taken our advice seriously,as Dales youthful aggression has been channelised into perfecting the art of fast bowling,and there are none even half as good as him in cricket today, says Pont.
Steyn worked with Pont once again as a 21-year old,this time with 11 Test matches under his belt. Pont recalls that he was still raw and hadnt matured enough,but all the ingredients and qualities to become what he has today were present in adundance plenty of skill,natural talent,and the will to never back down. Persisting despite the troughs,Steyn blossomed into a 150 plus kmph bowler,possessing the enviable art of making the ball swing and seam at will even at those break-neck speeds.
There are not enough bowlers in the world who can bowl at 150 plus and still manage to swing the ball at the same time. When Steyn came back,he had it all,but it was just polishing and more hard work that was required. I remember working on his accuracy,because that was the real need of the hour. Steyn was unrelentless,practicing harder than most bowlers I have seen, says Pont,matter-of-factly.
Pont is right,for without accuracy,no pacer can ever be put within the paranthesis of greats. Steyn took Ponts words as the bible before leaving for South Africa,and the terror hasnt looked
back since. While Pont believes that his coaches and mentors must take some credit for Dale Steyns tag as the best fast bowler in the world,but most of the praise must go to the ward himself,for having the courage to go all the way.
Nothing seems to affect Steyn,not even featherbeds and concrete tracks. Like at the batting paradise called the VCA Stadium in Nagpur early last year,the South African ripped through the hapless Indians,finishing with seven,match-winning wickets. Pont believes that this is because Steyn understands his limitations yes,even he has some better than most other bowlers in the world.
He knows what he has to do,and he plays with the batsmans mind with his subtle variations. If you watch him closely,you will notice that he doesnt try too much. The batsmans downfall has already been plotted on his graphical mind. He is a bowler for all seasons. Well,almost.
After praising his former ward,Pont is quick to add that nothing will satisfy him more than watching Steyn suffer at the hands of his Bangladeshi batsmen at Mirpur on Saturday. With South Africa taking on the co-hosts in the final group match before the knockouts,Pont has his fingers crossed for Steyns momentary downfall. I hope he doesnt do much against us,in fact,it will be a pleasure to spoil his party, Pont adds with
So what will the conversation be when two old friends meet at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium after a long gap? Watch out Dale,youre going to be hit out of the attack.
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