Steyn ‘fit’ but will likely not face India

If your reason for watching South Africa play India at Newlands on Friday is to see Dale Steyn’s return to test cricket‚ do not bother.

“Steyn is fit again‚” South Africa coach Ottis Gibson declared yesterday‚ which was hopeful, considering the fast bowler has not played a test since breaking a shoulder at the Waca in Perth in November 2016. But that hope did not float for long. “We don’t know just yet whether we will see him this week‚ but depending on the makeup of the team he might well play‚” Gibson said.

That seemed an unreasonably iffy view to hold about the comeback of the pace merchant. But Gibson had an argument: “He has had a year layoff.

“I don’t think if we were to pick a three-man seam attack plus a spinner you would want to put him in that three-man attack, in case something happens, and that leaves the team vulnerable if he can’t finish the game,” he said.

“That is not to say that he won’t finish the game, but you don’t want to take that risk in the first game of the summer,” the coach said.

“He will come into the discussion but it depends on the formation of the team.” Part of the bigger picture is that South Africa are now less reliant on Steyn‚ thanks largely to Morne Morkel firing again.

It was against Zimbabwe – who played below even their own level – but Morkel was in imposing form for his 5/21 in the first innings in Port Elizabeth last week.

Another part of the picture is that Steyn‚ who since his injury has bowled only 12 test overs – in a tour match against the Zimbabweans – could prove his fitness beyond doubt if he comes through unscathed in a first-class match for Northerns against Border in Pretoria that starts tomorrow.

More certain than Steyn’s situation is that Faf du Plessis is over a viral infection that kept him out of the Zimbabwe match‚ and that the hamstring injury Quinton de Kock sustained in that match has also healed.

Gibson is confident and why would he not be, considering they take on opponents who have yet to win a test series in South Africa.

But India have backed themselves more noisily than in the past.

“We feel we have the skillset to do well in any place in the world and now is our opportunity, because of the average age of the group and the amount of cricket we are going to play together‚” India captain Virat Kohli said at the weekend.

Gibson‚ made savvy by two stints as England bowling coach‚ which means dealing with the most reactionary tabloid press in cricket‚ was not about to rise to that bait.

Instead‚ he had the gumption to make the Indian Premier League sound like a good thing.

“They have a lot of world-class players – and world-class players aren’t just world class in their own backyard‚” Gibson said.

“If you take the IPL‚ the best Indians are rubbing shoulders with the best players in the world – so that fear factor of old of Indians not playing pace‚ is not the same anymore.

“I don’t think you will see them fold as easily as they did in the past.” – TimesLIVE

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