There are predators and there are sharks. These well-honed marauders can intuitively sense that a wounded prey is within striking distance. Maybe that’s how they manage to detect a drop of blood in the ocean. In the world of cricket, Dale Steyn is a shark in his own right. He goes for the kill the moment he senses fear in a batsman’s eyes. And even if he doesn’t, he makes his move anyway.
In the series opener on Thursday, Steyn returned figures of 3/25. In this era of slam-bang cricket, a maiden over is as rare as an honest politician. Steyn bowled three at the Wanderers. He also unleashed swinging thunderbolts at will. Here’s more bad news: India will have to deal with more of the same in the second ODI at the Sahara Stadium here on Sunday.
For starters, the outfield at Kingsmead is just a shade or two greener than the 22-yard strip.
“Winter, spring, summer or autumn, Durban is the warmest place to be.” That’s what the locals say all the time. Maybe they forgot to account for rain. Yes, it’s been drizzling here every now and then. The air is cooler as that means it will aid swing. The sun’s gone on a holiday of sorts. But don’t worry; the match is not under threat. Team India’s reputation certainly is.
Smarting from a 141-run thrashing, MS Dhoni and his boys need to buck up. Or the series will be over before they know it. And as if the questions Steyn asked them under lights the other evening weren’t probing enough, the South African speedster rubbed it in by taunting the visitors on the eve of the match.
“I hope we can wrap it up on Sunday,” he said with a chuckle. “In some small way, we have already given the Indians a taste of what the conditions are. You know it’s not India where the ball doesn’t get higher than the stumps.”
Barring Mohammed Shami’s three wickets and MS Dhoni’s 65, India had nothing to show in Johannesburg. If the bowlers erred in length and struggled to generate pace, the batsmen were clueless against a six-man pace army. “I am not going to them give any advice. I think they are doing fine,” Steyn said. This time, he let out a hearty laugh.
And then he pointed out the gaping holes in India’s game plans. “Look, with the ball, they lack someone who can really get the pace up there. Ishant (Sharma) sitting on the sides (doesn’t make sense). He is the one who can bowl 140 kph. You need guys who can either spin the ball a mile or bowl really quick,” he said. Virat Kohli acknowledged that notion. And that means Ishant or Umesh Yadav (maybe both) will get a look-in.
Steyn singled out Suresh Raina and R Ashwin, saying it seemed they didn’t want to stand in the line of the ball. In other words, they acted like chickens. He also rubbished the notion that South Africa are ‘angry’ because the series has been reduced to a farce, but you can see that they are pumped up like never before. “The Wanderers did not offer turn which R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja would have wanted, but it did offer pace. So we blew them up completely. If you don’t have pace, you will struggle in South Africa,” he said.
Steyn wasn’t done. He said the hosts had well and truly set the tone for the series, including the two-match Test rubber. “I’d say so. I’d definitely say so. I don’t see many of our guys walking away with bloody fingers or ice-packs on the ribs and stuff like that. Johannesburg was definitely a wake-up call. It’s not Mumbai where the ball doesn’t rise above the stumps. It’s going to be hard to play here.”
He then mellowed a bit. “India are a good side. They are not the No.1 ODI team for nothing. Like MS Dhoni said, they have toured the world and come here (after playing non-stop cricket). Give them a week or two and they will try to get used to the conditions before the Test series starts (on December 18),” he said. That’s a long way away. What about Sunday?