Chilled off the field, Steyn promises to bring some heat
White line fever ... Dale Steyn throws one down in the SCG nets. Photo: Brendan Esposito
''WHERE else in the world do you get the opportunity to basically kill someone with two bouncers an over? Or try, legally?'' With that rhetorical question the world's leading fast bowler announced his intentions for Australia's batsmen, who he will aim at from next Friday at the Gabba.
Just to be clear Dale Steyn is not actually attempting to murder David Warner or Ed Cowan come the first Test next week. The boys in blue at the perimeter of the ground and keeping the peace in the grandstands would not go for that.
However, Australia's openers and the rest of the batting order can expect headaches from the 29-year-old if this attitude is any indication. A mild-mannered, articulate and physically unimposing man without his fingers on the seam, Steyn's alter ego is, like many fast bowlers before him, entirely different. He doesn't look like a killer but at the end of his run-up this summer, for those peeking through the grill of a helmet, he could very well resemble one.
''I think cricket brings out a more aggressive side in me in all honesty,'' he said. ''That can bring out the anger in anyone. I think off the field I'm pretty chilled but on the field it's all business.''
A product of the nondescript mining city of Phalaborwa in South Africa's Limpopo region, Steyn enjoys fishing and hunting. He also just happens to be the top-ranked bowler in the world, and the protagonist among a trio of Proteas quicks that have arrived to defend South Africa's world No.1 title by whatever means necessary.
Steyn does not feel like the finest paceman on the planet, however. ''In all honesty I think there is probably better bowlers than what I am,'' he said. ''I think I'm one of the guys that have consistently played for South Africa and performed well.
''When Graeme [Smith] needs a wicket or something like that he kind of hands me the ball and I've been fortunate enough to take the wickets for him. If I'm playing every Test match and taking wickets those points rankings mean I'm always going to be up there.
''But it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm the best and most skilled bowler in the world. I think there is probably better bowlers out there.''
Plenty, arguably most, would disagree. Steyn's modesty is such that despite his exhilarating 10-wicket haul at the MCG on his last tour of Australia in 2008 he points to another more forgettable performance just across town two years before.
Picked for a one-day international against Australia at Melbourne's Docklands he was taken for 1-58 off only five overs, with opener Phil Jaques' 94 steering the hosts to a 59-run victory.
''I got absolutely belted,'' he said. ''I was probably inexperienced and just young and on the scene trying to make a name for myself, trying to make an impact and probably went about it the wrong way. I think if I just concentrated on bowling a consistent line and length and throwing the odd quick ball in there I'd probably have been OK.''
He believes he has since prospered due to his durability and the way his international input has been rationed. As the debate continues in Australia about the management of fast bowlers' workloads, Steyn argues a key to his success is the way he has been handled by South Africa.
''I think I've been managed well,'' he said. ''I've only played a handful of one-day internationals - I've only played like 80 one-day games [he has played 66]. For someone that's been playing as long as I have in my Test career I probably should have played double that at least.
''So they've managed me bloody well. I'm pretty stoked about that.''
As Steyn makes the transition into his thirties and inevitably thrusts past the 300 Test wicket mark - he enters this series with 287 - he insists he his still learning a craft he appears to have mastered. The latest lessons will revolve around how best to remove Warner and Cowan swiftly.
''Warner is quite attacking, he's a solid batter. I've never played Ed Cowan before and in all honesty I haven't seen much of him,'' Steyn said.
''We're going to do our homework now before the Australian series starts so we can start practising things in the nets just to start working on areas that I'm going to ball to him.
''From the looks of things they're quite settled and Warner can take the game away from you quite quickly so it's important that you're on the money straightaway.''