Dale Steyn and the pointless argument
Dale Steyn has dished out some short and nasty stuff over the years, but this week he was on the receiving end. Granted, it was only moderately nasty, but it was very short: 140 characters, to be precise. The South African giant turns 32 next month and on Monday hinted in an interview that he might want to sit out a couple of games on the upcoming tour of Bangladesh since it did not make sense to "waste" any of the few thousand deliveries he believes he has left in his body.Bangladeshi Twitter was not impressed and started steaming in off its long run. Steyn, however, has always shown courage. He quickly got into line and tweeted a solid apology. "Waste", he said, might have been the wrong word.I understand his apology. No public figure wants to alienate a country with a population of 156 million. But those of us with less to lose, like, say, columnists, can still call a spade a spade - or a pointless series a pointless series - and point out that Steyn has nothing to apologise for. Every ball he bowls at a Bangladeshi is one fewer he will bowl at an Australian or Indian or Englishman. And that is a waste.Bangladeshi fans would insist that their team, although weak, is trying. I agree.Bangladesh is extremely trying. The pitch they prepared for the first Test against Pakistan recently was a crime against cricket, producing 1515 runs, 26 wickets and five days of tedium. If their fans want to get angry with someone they might start with their groundsmen. But really, as supporters of a team that has won just seven of its 90 Tests - five of those were against Zimbabwe - they should probably just be quiet and let the nice man decide for how long he wants to grace their country.In the same interview, Steyn explained the logic behind rationing his bowling over the next few years: he wants to win a World Cup for South Africa. It's a noble ideal but I suspect one that is well out of reach. A year ago I predicted that his international career would be coming to an end more or less now. He's proved me wrong.Steyn is just four scalps away from becoming only the 12th bowler to take 400 Test wickets. He's implied that he wants to sit out the O D I s on the upcoming tour but surely his host of fans would want him to skip the Tests? That would allow him to reach the magical number later this year against much worthier opposition - either India or England. Against Bangladesh? That feels like a bit of a waste.Reaching that crossroadDave Nosworthy, who coached the fledgling Dale Steyn at the Titans, said: "You can bring in doctors and biokineticists but the only person who really knows [how the body is feeling] is the player. Also, scientists have never been able to grasp what's called 'bowling fitness' - you have to find balance; how much to bowl to get into a rhythm, but also avoid injury (through exertion). I'm a massive fan of bowling fitness. And in my experience, the more Dale bowled, the better he got. He is the ultimate professional and he knows himself and is interested in looking after himself, and that's probably why he's made this move."Neil McKenzie, who played 58 Tests and 64 one-day internationals for the Proteas, said the decision to slow down was a "personal choice". "Everyone is different. I'm a batsman, but he [Steyn] is a bowler bowling at 145km/h, which takes a lot more out of you. So when I retired it was [more about motivation] and less about the body. In SA cricket's interest we'd love Dale to give up the IPL and play Tests and ODIs, but I ... don't know where [format-wise] he wants to slow down. The IPL is lucrative, but that should be the one to stop if burnout is a problem and you're putting your country's needs first."Ryk Neethling, the retired Olympic gold medallist swimmer, said of his experience: "After 28 or 30, you don't really improve any more. You have to work very hard to stay where you are, so mentally it gets challenging. My view is it's better to leave too early than to stay too long - you want to leave on a high."