In any sport, much like cricket there are everyday players who as mere mortals come and go and when they call time on their career, they just retire.
Having said this, it is rare to find players who transcend mere mortality to exuberate greatness through their sheer passion for the game and when they call it a day, they just don’t retire but reach immortality.
A person in the mould of immortality is ‘The Phalaborwa Express,’ the rarest diamond unearthed from South Africa.
A nightmare for every batter and the reason of much envy for people of his kind. The fast bowling kind.
Well, when it came to Dale Steyn, the word kind albeit in the caring sense had little meaning in his bowling bible as he just believed in a simple mantra every time he ran up to a batter.
And boy was he successful in following this mantra by being the leading test wicket-taker for the Proteas at a whopping tally of 439 wickets in just 93 games. That comes to roughly five-wickets per test.
A record that made South Africa a shining beacon of light in his 15-year career.
If this wasn’t reason enough to celebrate the bastion of fast bowling, The Steyn Gun held the numero uno position amongst test bowlers for a stupendous 263 weeks a.k.a 1841 days a.k.a 6 long years from 2008-2014.
The longest for any bowler ever with the closest competitor being the Sri Lankan wizard of spin, Muttiah Muralitharan who held this esteemed title for 214 weeks.
Let that sink in.
When it came to shorter formats particularly the ODIs, The Steyn Gun was full of bullets too much like his test exploits shooting down batters one by one in a total annihilation of 196 causalities at a mouth-watering average of just 23 runs per wicket.
To put things into perspective the Proteas won 28 out of the 42 ODI series contested when Dale Steyn was their most preferred weapon of choice. A win percentage of 67.
If this isn’t remarkable, one wonders what is?
He plied his trade rather successfully in the shortest format too having picked 64 wickets in the 47 T20Is that he contested for South Africa at a phenomenal average of just 18 with a miserly economy rate of under 7.
Even today’s generation of bowlers going around who call themselves T20 experts struggle to have an economy of below 7.
But such was the calibre of the man.
Truth be told, words deceive me when I just dare to think about the illumination this rare of the rarest diamond exuberated and when one looks at his astounding record, can he understand why Dale Steyn was arguably the best fast bowler ever, let alone only in his generation.
Sometimes I wonder, had he prolonged his test career would the Phalaborwa express have more wickets than even the mighty Jimmy Anderson. Well, who knows?
For now, the one thing that the entire world surely knows or rather is coming to terms with is Dale Steyn has left the building!
Having said this, there is still good news, international cricket could still get a piece of this legend going forward.
In his own admission, the icon has said he wants to become a coach at some point to impart his knowledge and share his experience with the younger lot.
That will surely happen in time albeit for now The Steyn Gun is more than satisfied being a surfer, a skate-boarder and most importantly a dog-dad.
We will always miss you sir.
Catch Caught At Point’s special episode on the great Protea: