While his red ball prowess makes him one of the best ever Test bowlers to grace the game, Steyn's ODI performances haven't been over the top and over the years, fans have acknowledged him as a Test great but an ordinary ODI cricketer.
All of that made his comeback to the limited-overs side in 2018 a surprise. Having undergone surgeries and coming off the back of a long injury lay-off, Steyn's Test comeback and breaking Shaun Pollock's tally for most Test wickets by a South African were a dream come true for most. But seeing Steyn in the Protea green and gold was a sight not many expected to see.
Contrary to what was expected from him based on his past performances, Steyn owned the stage since his comeback. Since making a comeback in the series against Zimbabwe last year, Steyn has racked up 15 wickets in eight matches at a stunning average of 17.46. Compared to his career average of 25.92, this was a revelation.
The returns make him the most successful South African bowler since his comeback last year, with Andile Phehlukwayo coming a close second with 14 wickets. What's even more phenomenal is that Steyn's wickets have come at an economy of four an over, mind-blowing in this day and age of T20 cricket.
It shows that Steyn has not only developed a better understanding of the shorter versions of the game but also honed his skills to become a containing, yet a wicket-taking option for the Proteas. In fact, since his comeback, only two other bowlers across nations have a better average (min 10 wickets) than Steyn - Jasprit Bumrah and Shaheen Shah Afridi.
His economy is only bettered by Jasprit Bumrah who clocks 3.63 in this time frame. Steyn's extraordinary comeback deserves merit for he wasn't the same bowler after the 2015 World Cup shambles till he came back last year.
Overall, since the World Cup, Steyn has averaged 27.63 in 20 matches, taking 33 wickets. 15 of them have come post 2018 in just 8 matches which means that in the 12 matches prior to his comeback and after the 2015 World Cup, Steyn has only 18 wickets. His average is also higher than his average before the 2015 World Cup.
The recent numbers, though, prove that Steyn has been in prime form since making a shock comeback to the limited-overs setup. Yet, his place in the World Cup squad is being debated and he isn't deemed good enough to start in the ODIs against Sri Lanka with Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and rookie seamer Anrich Nortje starting. Given the wealth of experience he has, Steyn could well be a massive weapon for South Africa at the World Cup, particularly if he can get that white ball swinging early on in English conditions.
First Published: March 9, 2019, 6:51 PM IST