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Dale Steyn, The Embodiment of Simplicity and Intensity, Retires—The Greatest Fast Bowler of Them All

Everyone loves Dale Steyn—Simply the Greatest.

Famous French fashion designer Coco Chanel professed that “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”

Simplicity and Intensity were the hallmarks of Dale Steyn’s illustrious career—ever smiling character with a popping veins-chainsaw celebration, a smooth, silky action that delivered lethal bouncers, a humble down-to-earth character who assumed the mantle of being the greatest fast bowler of his generation.

Hence, it was true to his character that he hung up his boots via an understated tweet. He signed off with a snippet from the Counting Crows rock band and summed up the end as “bittersweet, but grateful…It’s been 20 years of training, matches, travel, wins, losses, strapped feet, jet lag, joy, and brotherhood.”

Table of Contents

  1. The Beginning
  2. Dale Steyn Stats – Strike Rate Like No Other
  3. Records
    1. Overall
    2. Individual
  4. Teams
  5. My Favorite Steyn Memory
  6. The Rise of Dale Steyn, Conqueror of All Conditions
    1. The King of Asia
  7. Steyn Vs AB De Villiers IPL
  8. The Injuries
  9. Climbing the Peak
  10. Who Is Dale Steyn, The Person?
    1. The Inspiration
    2. Other Interesting Steyn Facts
    3. The Match That Broke Dale Steyn
  11. The Downfall of the Great Era
    1. Steyn, Morkel, Philander, Rabada
  12. The Legacy of Dale Steyn
  13. Dale Steyn Vs Jimmy Anderson – Let Us Settle The Debate
  14. What Can We Learn From Dale Steyn?
    1. Life Lessons
  15. Dale Steyn Fast Bowling Videos
  16. Interested In Reading More Such Tributes? Check These Articles Below

The Beginning

Steyn was thrusted in the international arena after just seven first class games. He began his Test career on December 17, 2004 against England, debuting in the same match as the another-to-be legend, Abraham Benjamin de Villiers.

Both teams had great bowlers. On the opposite end—Steve Harmison, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard, and Andrew Flintoff (formed the core of the great 2005 Ashes series), while South Africa had the dependable duo of Shaun Pollock & Makhaya Ntini.

Then arrived a 21-year old boy in iconic fashion, going through the gates of Marcus Trescothick and breaking a 152-run opening partnership. In the 43rd over. Full and straight. Slight movement. He screamed. Crowd erupted.

Usually, one brilliant delivery in a match is good enough. However, the ball from Steyn’s debut that is remembered is that Michael Vaughan ball in the second innings. Good length, outswing, beats the bat, off stump rooted. Perfection.

Although South Africa eventually lost that match, they found someone would would win them the decade.

Dale Steyn Stats – Strike Rate Like No Other

Before we jump into his best hits, let us look over some numbers really quick.

We tend to focus on batting strike rate much more due to T20 cricket and increasing run-rates, but to understand what set Steyn apart, we need to understand bowling strike rate. Bowling strike rate is the number of balls taken per dismissal on average. The lower, the better.

Matches Wickets Best Strike Rate Average 5-fers 10-fers
Test (Overall)934397/51 (Innings)
11/60 (Match)
42.3022.95265
Test (Asia)22927/51 (Innings)
10/108 (Match)
42.924.1151
Steyn in Tests

MatchesWicketsBestStrike RateAverage5-fersEconomy
ODI1251966/3931.9025.9534.87
T20I47644/915.8018.352 (4-fers)6.94
T202282634/919.2022.004 (4-fers)6.85
Steyn in ODIs and T20Is

To put this into perspective, for those with at least 100 Test wickets, Waqar Younis (43.4), Shoaib Akhtar, (45.7), and Allan Donald (47) are the only other contemporary fast bowlers who were close to Steyn’s SR. From an earlier era, Malcolm Marshall (46.7) was the best, while Kagiso Rabada (41.2), Anrich Nortje, and Pat Cummins (47.1) are in the race right now.

Records

Overall

  • (42.30) 6th Best Strike Rate of All-Time, 3rd Best post-World War I. Only Shane Bond (38.7) & fellow countrymen Kagiso Rabada (41.2) higher
  • 3rd Fastest to 400 wickets, and the joint-fastest fast bowler to this mark alongside Sir Richard Hadlee (80 matches)
  • Most Test Wickets for South Africa, surpassing Shaun Pollock’s 421 wickets.
  • 8th Highest Wicket-Taker of All-Time (Only Muralitharan, Warne, Anderson*, Kumble, McGrath, Broad, Walsh ahead. None had a strike rate below 51.9)

Individual

  • ICC Test Cricketer of the Year (2008)
  • ICC Test Team of the Decade (2020)
  • #1 Ranked ICC Test Bowler (2008-2014) – 78 wickets at 16.24 in the 2007/08 season.

Teams

International: South Africa, Africa XI

Domestic: Eersterust Cricket Club, Titans, Northerns, Cape Cobras

IPL: Royal Challengers Bangalore, Deccan Chargers, Sunrisers Hyderabad

Other T20 Leagues: Cape Town Blitz (Mzansi Super League), Melbourne Stars, Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators, Kandy Tuskers

My Favorite Steyn Memory

My favorite aspect about Steyn was his action. Just a joy to watch. Anytime any format if Steyn is bowling, I would turn my TV on.

You see, the Shoaib Akthars and Lasith Malingas are legends in their own rights, but emulating their actions is a convoluted task. The two pace bowlers with almost perfect actions that I tried to imitate in gully cricket were Brett Lee and Dale Steyn. Uncomplicated yet effective.

To be perfectly honest, I do not remember his specific bowling figures from the top of my head. He has bowled so consistently over the decades that you only remember his iconic wickets or spells. More often than not he probably took a 4-fer or a 5-fer. Most times, I was scared for my favorite batter in the opposite camp, and that is the beauty of Dale Steyn—the ability to send shivers in the opposite camp but in an awe-inspiring, charming kind of manner.

The Rise of Dale Steyn, Conqueror of All Conditions

It would be difficult to go through all of his 29 5-fers, so let us talk about the greatest hits from Steyn’s career. Dropped after his early debut, he made a comeback. Against New Zealand, he would get his first five-fer in 2006.

He had memorable spells against England, Australia, and New Zealand. He took 5 wicket hauls in every condition and situation. Either with helpful seaming conditions or reverse swing.

He has literally taken a 5-fer against every country he played against.

Best Figures (Overall) Against This TeamBest Figures In This Country
Australia5/675/67
Bangladesh5/634/48
England5/515/56
India7/517/51
New Zealand6/493/49
Pakistan6/85/56
South Africa6/8
Sri Lanka5/545/54
U.A.E.4/98
West indies6/345/29
Zimbabwe5/465/46

The King of Asia

Steyn’s best figure was 7/51 at Nagpur in 2010, but it was his 5/23 in Ahmedabad (2008) that landed him in the lengdary fast bowling pantheon, when India were skittled out for 76 at home soil. His brilliant consistency in the 2008 series against India continued- 4/103 (Chennai), 5/23 & 3/91 (Ahmedabad), 3/71 (Kanpur).

In Sri Lanka, he lifted his game even more. 5/82 (2006), and beast mode in 2014 (5/54, 4/45, 2/69, 2/59). He even landed a 5/56 in Karachi (2007) and had a best innings of 4/48 in Bangladesh.

His best figures in South Africa was a miserly 6/8 when Pakistan were skittled for 49/10.

In limited overs, his record is decent as well although he did not play as many matches. 5 wickets in Nagpur against India in the 2011 World Cup, 4-0-17-4 figures while defending a thriller in the 2014 T20I World Cup, and a T20I economy of under-7 suggests he was a much better bowler than his T20 leagues returns suggest.

It would be grave injustice if I did not mention his batting. He was more than a useful down-the order player. Two Test fifties including a crucial 76 and a best of 60 in ODIs meant he was a better than a tailender, but not quite an all-rounder. Kemar Roach-esque batting abilities.

Steyn Vs AB De Villiers IPL

Another riveting memory is the 2012 IPL game between Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chinawamy. 24 runs in one over. The inside out shot was the best of them all and even got a wry smile from Steyn in appreciationg of ABD’s class.

The brilliance of that passage of play was two players at the top of their games in a pressure situation and for once, Steyn had lost to his fellow countrymen.

Which phase of Dale Steyn was the most memorable or heartbreaking for you?

The Injuries

Another miraculous part of Steyn’s journey was his career of two halves—with respect to injuries.

Usually a fast bowler succumbs to an injury early in their career and comes back stronger, more well built (like Pat Cummins). An injury in the middle of the career means lowering the pace and focusing on line & length (like Munaf Patel). Another extreme is Brett Lee or Shane Bond (always injured, played cricket in between without compromising speed).

Steyn completely escaped this phase and never lost control, momentum, or pace. However, the law of averages came back to bite him at the end of his career.

Injury. Rehabilitation. Few games. Repeat.

  • 2013 (Groin Strain, Side Strain)
  • 2014 (Rib Fracture, 3 Hamstring Strains)
  • 2015 (Groin Strain)
  • 2015-16 (Shoulder Injury)
  • 2017 (Freak heel injury)
  • 2019 (Shoulder Injury) after being selected into the ODI World Cup squad

Climbing the Peak

Although his goal was to lift a trophy with South Africa, there was always a personal goal—to go one past Shaun Pollock. After numerous injuries, he got back up on his feet and on Boxing Day 2018, he took his 422nd wicket to become the leading wicket-taker for South Africa.

It was probably fate that Shaun Pollock would be commentating on that exact moment. Watch the video below to relieve that moment and all of his major milestone wickets till then.

After his shoulder injury again just before South Africa’s 2019 campaign started (and derailed), he announced on 5 August 2019 he would retire from Tests to focus on limited overs cricket. He ended at 439 after going past 400 in 2014.

Loss of form, pandemic, and postponement of the T20 World Cups meant it was time to retire in the other formats as well.

Steyn goes past Shaun Pollock, thereby becoming the highest wicket-taker for South Africa in Test cricket.

Who Is Dale Steyn, The Person?

Now that we know how good Steyn is as a bowler, let us get an insight on who the person he truly is—what really makes Dale Steyn kick. He has a life outside cricket, ya know? Thankfully, his interviews, especially this ESPNCricinfo’s Cricket Monthly interview with Nagraj Gollapudi, provides us a glimpse into his life.

Dale Steyn was born in the small town of Phalaborwa in the Limpopo Province (borders Kruger National Park in South Africa). Maybe the natural environment around him had an effect of him since he became an out-doorsy kind of person. Skateboarding, surfing, and fishing are some of his favorite hobbies. He even flexed his acting muscles for a cameo role in a Drew Barrymore-Adam Sandler movie Blended.

The Inspiration

He is a natural athlete who competed at various sports from an early level. 100 meter sprints, long jump, triple jump, high jumps all prepared him for long spells of bowling in Test match arena. He wanted to be like “Allan Donald through the air, but I wanted to land the ball the way Polly landed.. I wanted to be a faster version of Shaun Pollock.

The best of both worlds.

Steyn said that the “difference between a good fast bowler and a brilliant fast bowler is the wickets column.” He always backed himself to take wickets regardless of the condition and taking 5-fers in every Test playing nation was one of his goals. Here is his collection of souvenir cricket balls.

In order to rise to this level, he has had a lot of support from his coaches, Chris van Noordwyk, Vinnie Barnes, Geoff Clarke, and captains, Graeme Smith, AB De Villiers, and Hashim Amla.

Other Interesting Steyn Facts

There were couple of other cool snippets in there as well. Keeping his cool against dropped catches, facing the Kohlis and de Villiers, altercation with Michael Clarke, Tests vs ODIs, Tendulkar Vs Donald, and video analysis & field settings.

A fun fact is that his full run up is 19 meters, 21 steps, which helps him avoid bowling no-balls. Why is this important? Well because he once took a wicket on a no-ball early in the innings, and it cost his team dearly. The batter was Kumar Sangakkara and the innings became famous for the record 624 partnership with Mahela Jayawardene.

(If you want to learn how Steyn learned about cricket in the first place, hear it from the man himself. Interesting story).

The Match That Broke Dale Steyn

It is time to talk about that World Cup semi-final. In Faf Du Plessis & AB De Villiers’ Friendship article, we spoke about the 2015 World Cup match.

Ian Smith on commentary. Grant Elliot. Superman. It hurt AB De Villers & Faf du Plessis. Definitely hurt Morne Morkel. Probably ended Vernon Philander’s career. We never saw Miller 1.0 again. The entire team. Devastated.

Now for a moment, let us put ourselves into Dale Steyn’s shoe. He dominated the world between 2008 and 2015. Responsibility for the last over of a World Cup semi-final rested on his shoulders (which would literally break a year later). South Africa’s history of collapses and chokes running in the background.

How must have it felt. Carrying the burden of the nation, the tag of the best fast bowler of the generation. One good ball, and you are in the legendary books. One bad ball, and you are scarred for life. Vettori squeezing a wide yorker, chaos in the field, overthrow chances. Steyn calm under pressure. Yet a half-volley in the small grounds of Auckland and Elliot did not miss his chance to glory.

Six. South Africa out. Steyn changed forever.

He reveals how he knew he was going to bowl the final over irrespective of Brendon McCullum’s expensive assault earlier in the innings. After all, he defended 7 runs in the 2014 T20 World Cup match against the same opposition. (He ended with 4-0-17-4 in Bangladesh. Wow). “This year was the hardest in dealing with that pain after the World Cup…We had our chances to win the game…Knowing that you have put four years’ hard work in, especially the last two years before the tournament, all you see is yourself holding the trophy. And then you don’t.”

The Downfall of the Great Era

With Steyn’s retirement, this is the close of one of the better chapters in South African cricket (Technically Faf and Tahir are still available for T20 World Cup selection, but have not been selected recently). All of them deserve a separate article.

Herschelle Gibbs was the architect of that 438 chase. Graeme Smith was the young leader who could bat with a broken hand. The pure class of Hashim Amla & AB De Villiers was unmatched. Faf’s leadership & resilience and once-in-a-generation-allrounder, Jacques Kallis, are often underrated. JP Duminy & Mark Boucher were the utility players every team needs for balance.

Steyn, Morkel, Philander, Rabada

Donald, Ntini, and Pollock passed on the baton to Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, and Kagiso Rabada—possibly the greatest line up (if only for just a few Tests). Philander’s swing made him the second fastest to 50 wickets, while Morne’s height and action bamboozled one and all. Rabada will soon form his leagacy of his own, and Imran Tahir was the energy boost South Africa required.

Together, they conquered teams overseas and became the No. 1 Test Team of the decade, the only ones to really challenge the great 2000s Australia team consistently and win away from home in the 2010s.

The future of South Africa lies with Quinton de Kock, Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Janneman Malan (100+ average in 9 ODIs by the way), Keshav Maharaj, and Tabraiz Shamsi. This is a pretty solid core, but it will take quite a few generations to reach the heights of Steyn’s South African team.

The Legacy of Dale Steyn

To answer this question, we must first ask ourselves what is great fast bowling?

Is it swinging it like Jimmy Anderson? Putting fear in the opposition’s heart like a Mitchell Johnson or Shoaib Akhtar? Delivering consistent line and lengths like Glenn McGrath & Shaun Pollock? Having a seamless action like Brett Lee? Bowling yorkers at will like a Mitchell Starc? Reverse swing like Waqar Younis?

Imagine all of these players. Package them into one. Add a tinge of humbleness with Sam Curran’s ability to make things happen. There you have it. Dale Steyn, the greatest Test pace bowler of all time.

The 1980s had Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, and the West Indies fast bowlers. The 1990s with was dominated by the Pakistan duo Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram. Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee all played stellar roles in this era as well. Steyn, Akhtar, and Lee a carried the baton to the next generation and made sure that “fast bowling is cool.” In the age of T20 cricket where sixes are hit on will, Steyn played his part in extending the beauty of pace bowling. The fact that Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje have arrived on the scene has to be credited to senior bowlers like Steyn & Morkel.

He ends that interview with, “The moment I feel I can’t contribute anymore I will not hang on. And if I fall just short of 100 Test matches or five short of 500 Test wickets, that’s fine.”

Unfortunately, that his how it ended. 7 short of a 100 Tests and 61 short of 500 wickets. Legendary career nevertheless.

Dale Steyn Vs Jimmy Anderson – Let Us Settle The Debate

Both Anderson and Steyn are in awe of each other. Steyn describes Anderson as “a more skillful bowler…I am a fan,” in Sky Sports’ Lockdown special, while Anderson’s tribute tweet to his retirement was that Steyn was “The Best.”

Every generation, there are three to five great fast bowlers but maybe one all-time great. We should be grateful we had two. Jimmy Anderson, the greatest swing bowler in the history of Test cricket and Dale Steyn, the greatest pace bowler of all-time.

Let us appreciate both and cheer on Jimmy Anderson in whatever time he has left.

What Can We Learn From Dale Steyn?

Being at the top for over a decade requires immense discipline and fitness levels.

It is one thing to be a great fast bowler. Another to comeback with the same intensity. Not once, not twice. But thrice. My heart sank when his freak heel injury occurred, a sign that the end was near.

I just wanted him to bowl some more. Another Test. Just another spell. Maybe one more over.

Every good thing comes to an end, and so does his magnificent career. I am sure he will continue to inspire athletes around the world and mentor fast bowlers like he did in his career. We will all miss watching Dale Steyn dominate the best batting attacks around the world. I will miss that anger, speed, cartwheeling stumps, celebration, and of course, the action.

Life Lessons

Kids, if you are reading this and want to make a sports person your idol, there is no one better than the great Dale Steyn. So what can we learn from Dale Steyn?

Give it your all on the field and be a decent human being off it. Steyn might have shown plenty of emotions in intense situations, but outside the cricket ground, he is a super chill dude who likes to fish and stay away from conflict.

The truth is that being gifted alone cannot make you great. Simplicity. Honesty. Hard work. Discipline. Consistency. Longevity. Adaptability. You need all characteristics to work in sync.

Steyn was gifted. Not everyone can bowl at such high pace. If you are talented in a particular area and enjoy doing it, you should pursue it further. In order to convert the potential into actual realization, persevere and power through.

You will eventually find your away. Just like a Steyn outswinger that beat the bat and rattled the top of off stump.

Dale Steyn Fast Bowling Videos

  1. What the Aussies Think of Dale Steyn
  2. Steyn Vs David Warner-World’s Most Curious Battle
  3. 6 Wickets Durban Vs India (2010)
  4. Bowleds, Beats, and Bouncers

Interested In Reading More Such Tributes? Check These Articles Below

© Copyright @Nitesh Mathur and Broken Cricket Dreams, 2021. Originally published on 09/03/2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Broken Cricket Dreams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content (i.e. linked to the exact post/article).

Faf du Plessis & AB De Villiers’ Friendship: Broken Dreams of Faf and ABD

In this world, nothing is certain except death, taxes, and South Africa failing to win a World Cup. Faf and ABD know this too well. South African fans know this too well. The 2015 semi-final still hurts (as if the 1999, 1992, 2007, and 2011 World Cups were not bad enough).

Just to rub salt in the wound, even England (and kind of New Zealand) won in 2019 while South Africa endured a dismal campaign.

Embed from Getty Images

This image still resonates. Dale Steyn on his knee, Grant Elliot in a moment of great sportsmanship. On the other side, captain AB de Villiers in tears and Morne Morkel—completely shattered.

Faf and ABD: Tale of Two Heroes

Fast forward to September 2020. The IPL is back. So are Faf and ABD.

Usually it is the West Indians who dominate T20 leagues, but this IPL has been South Africa’s so far. In IPL 2020, Anrich Nortje has been a revelation, while Kagiso Rabada and Quinton de Kock continue to show the world why they are South Africa’s torchbearers to the next generation.

If you saw AB De Villiers’ finishing assault on Bumrah or Faf’s consistency in batting and acrobatic catches, you know that they still have it.

Initially, I was going to write two separate articles about Abraham de Villiers and Francois du Plessis, but that is not possible. You just cannot separate them. They are like brothers from another mothers. If AB is the graceful artist, Faf is the resilient leader. Both are legends of South African cricket.

Today we will talk their careers, their friendship, the heartbreak, what could have been, and what could still be.

While AB De Villiers has retired from international cricket (for the time being), Faf continues on. Can Faf fulfill the broken dream of ABD and win South Africa a trophy?

*as of 19 November 2021, AB De Villiers has retired from all cricket because “the flame no longer burns.” Faf Du Plessis himself was ignored from South Africa’s team for the 2021 T20 World Cup and has retired from Tests.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

*Please subscribe to never miss an article! Comment below on your favorite memories of ABD and Faf, and share ahead!

The Beginning

AB de Villers and Faf Du Plessis have been competing on and off the cricket field since middle school. They both went to the same school and university – Afrikaans High School (Affies) and University of Pretoria respectively. Over the years, their friendship has evolved with AB becoming Faf’s best man in his wedding.

Although their personal lives carried smoothly, their careers took vastly different routes.

The South African team under Graeme Smith was the only team that could challenge Australia at their home and would rise to the No.1 Test rankings. With the great Jacques Kallis, Boucher, Ntini, and Pollock, breaking into this team was not an easy task. AB was recognized early as a prospect and was tracked into the national team in 2004. In a couple of years’ time, he had established himself and by 2008, the Perth special guaranteed his journey into greatness.

On the other hand, Faf had to toil his way through domestic cricket, season after season. He even temporarily played in England with a Kolpak deal. Although Faf was becoming disillusioned, AB encouraged him to keep the hope alive with the imminent retirements of Smith and Kallis.

7 years after AB, finally Faf’s day came. It started with an epic.

Faf du Plessis had to wait for his turn in international cricket. When he did get his turn, he took his chance and followed a first innings 78 with a valiant fourth innings match-saving century against Australia in Adelaide.

The Stats

AB De Villiers

Ab De Villiers will go down as one of the All-Time greatest ODI players. Not only is his statistics out of the world – an average above 50 and strike rate above 100, it is the manner in which he changed the game. He was an innovator with his unconventional shots and created the idea of a “360 degree player.” A versatile cricketer, he could adapt to any format, situation, or challenge at hand. He could score 149*(44) or defend 43(354) in a blockathon. Apart from his batting, he can keep wickets, field in any position, and captain.

Can also play hockey, football, rugby, badminton, swim, win science competitions, sing, and has written an autobiography.

Retired from international cricket in 2018 and is a star at RCB.

Records: Fastest ODI 50/100/150, 78 test innings without a duck (most), South Africa’s 2nd highest ODI run scorer and fourth highest test run scorer.

  • Test: 114 matches, 8765 runs, average 50.66, best of 278*, 22-1 00s/46-50s
  • ODI: 228 matches, 9577 runs, average 53.50, 101.90 strike rate, best of 176, 25-100s/53-50s
  • T20I: 78 matches, 1672 runs, average 26.10, 135.16 strike rate, best of 79*, 10-50s

Faf Du Plessis

Faf is one of the most underrated batsman in the current era. He is known for his strong character through his ability to counter tough situations. Like AB, he easily adapts between formats, from blockathons and saving Test matches to becoming a successful T20 batsman with shots like the scoop. Although he is a dependable batsman, he is known for his captaincy – the ability to guide South Africa through tough rebuilding phases as well as the reformation time. And of course, his fielding.

Records: Centuries in all formats as a captain, first player to score century in a day-night Test

  • Test: 65 matches, 3901 runs, average 39.80, best of 137, 9-100s/21-50s
  • ODI: 143 matches, 5507 runs, average 47.47, 88.60 strike rate, best of 185, 12-100s/35-50s
  • T20I: 47 matches, 1407 runs, average 34.31, 134.12 strike rate, best of 119, 1-100/8-50s

The Match That Broke South Africa

The Match

24 March, 2015. New Zealand vs. South Africa at Auckland. The Proteas were arguably the favorites. Since South Africa were in the semi-finals, there had to be the obligatory rain and net run-rate calculations.

South Africa posted an excellent total with Faf, ABD, and Miller finishing the innings well. In response, McCullum blazed away against Dale Steyn, briefly collapsed, and recovered with the Grant Elliot-Corey Anderson steady partnership. Five needed in two, and Elliot hit Dale Steyn over long on for the victory.

A once-in-a-lifetime special innings from Grant Elliot. Grant Elliot, superman.

The Consequence

The great South African generation broke down, both mentally and physically. It was a slow degeneration over the next four years.

Kyle Abbott picked the Kolpak route as a direct result of being dropped for Vernon Philander on the eve of the match due to political pressure and the quota system. Other talents like Rilee Rossouw, Simon Harmer, and Duanne Olivier would follow.

Vernon Philander himself would wane off in a couple of years. Dale Steyn, a fast bowler who was rarely injured for over a decade began picking up freak injuries. Morne retired from international cricket early for Kolpak while ABD retired early to manage T20 leagues loads, a year before the 2019 World Cup.

2019 was a disaster. Numerous injuries, media reports, and the end of illustrious careers of Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, and Imran Tahir.

Only Faf du Plessis survived. Barely.

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Legacy

Faf symbolizes resilience and commitment. After the crushing 2019 campaign, Faf had the choice to hang up his boots but he decided to give back to South African cricket.

The rest of the golden era had retired. What did Faf do? He remained in the game and stayed as captain to absorb all the pressure and criticism. He worked extremely hard, transitioned towards a new team, and inspired the youngsters around him. All with a smile.

Since Faf had to wait seven more years for a South African cap, he cherished every moment as a South African cricketer and realized the struggle of others that have to wait in the wings or are thinking about going to England.

AB De Villiers was the catalyst to South Africa’s fortunes and changed cricket forever with his inventive batting. His premature retirement and the controversies around picking and choosing gained a lot of traction among critics and fans alike, but he had a point. More than anything, he was a victim of an overkill of cricket—it does take a physical and mental toll on you. He gave 14 years to South Africa, playing all formats continuously, and we should appreciate that.

What Can We Learn?

Cricket is unpredictable, a dropped catch or run-out can change the game. Similarly, life is unpredictable. Sometimes the best do not end up victorious, but how an individual responds to tough situations is important.

Faf just never gave up. Whether saving a test match, dealing with ball-tampering allegations, or managing captaincy issues, he just never gave up. Even if the ball is traveling with speed and is seemingly going for a six, just keep your nerve and hang on. You never know, you may pull off a catch.

What does ABD teaches us? Never stop learning and improving. He was regarded as the future of South Africa pretty early on, and he put in everything for them. He kept wickets despite back injuries, opened the batting, finished innings, and captained tough situations, and learned to evolve with time.

Your only competition is with you. Even when AB was at his best, he continued to reinvent self. Your best can always get better.

They both did it differently, but Faf and AB have been inspirational in their own rights. When they batted together, you realized that South Africa was in good hands. They were just a delight to watch, and we hope the very best to them and South Africa in the future.

Where can the Proteas go from here?

Although domestic talent is continuously drained into the Kolpak system, the quota system has been controversial, and systemic discrimination has to be dealt with, all is not lost.

This IPL has shown that Faf is ever dependable, ABD still has some magic, and de Kock is ready to take more responsibility. With stars in Kagiso Rabada, Nortje, and Chris Morris, who knows, 2021 T20 World Cup is where South Africa bounces back.

For South Africa to succeed in 2021, Faf needs ABD, and ABD needs Faf. South Africa and cricket fans around the world— we want them both together, one final time.

Comment below on your thoughts about the article or your favorite memories of AB De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis.

If you liked this tribute, please check out tributes to Rahul Dravid, Lasith Malinga, and Ellyse Perry along with other such cricketing heroes.

Sources: Cricinfo, IPLT20.com, cricket.com.au, #ProteasFire-Youtube

Image Courtesy: Getty Images