Steyn says India's Champions Trophy squad is a strong one
Mumbai: India might have left out seasoned campaigners Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singhand Gautam Gambhir from their ICC Champions Trophy squad, but South African speedster Dale Steyn feels even without the trio, skipper Mahendera Singh Dhoni has a strong side at his disposal.
"India have got a great side. If you look at the IPL, the highest run getters, the highest wicket takers are all Indian players and all of them are in Champions Trophy. They are going to do just fine. Hopefully not too fine against us," Steyn said in an interview.
Sehwag, Yuvraj and Gambhir have been omitted from the 15-man Indian squad by the selectors due to indifferent form.
India and South Africa are scheduled to kick-off the eight-nation tournament on June 6 at the Sophia Gardens at Wales, in a Group B match.
Apart from India and South Africa, the four-team Group B also features West Indies and Pakistan, and Steyn said it's a tough pool.
"It's a good group. It's a difficult group. All the teams are doing well and they are playing some good cricket at the moment. The rankings don't matter. There are some star players in every team that can just knock you out. We have got our work cut out for us when we go there. I am looking forward to that challenge," Steyn said about the group.
Steyn was of the opinion that the conditions in England would be dry in June and it could be challenging for both batsmen and bowlers.
"I think it gets dry there now in June. I know when we played the Test series last year, it was quite difficult to bowl on. It is also difficult to score on too. There weren't too many high scoring games in the ODIs we played. There weren't any 300 plus kind of scores, they were like 270 or 260. It always keeps the bowlers in the game. I will assess it when I get there," he said.
South Africa, too, would be missing key players like Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith and Steyn felt that the team lacked experience, but was also confident that the youngsters are capable of performing well.
"Between the two (Kallis and Smith) of them, there is like 500 ODIs, so massive. As cliches go, it is the opportunity for younger guys to do their stuff. I believe that the guys who are stepping up are just as capable of what these guys can do. It is the experience factor that we lack, that's all," he said.
Young South African batsman David Miller, who has been included, has been impressive with his match-winning knocks in the ongoing IPL and Steyn said the 23-year-old has a golden chance to make his mark in world cricket.
"He (Miller) has played only a handful of ODIs. His ability, if not, is as equal to a Smith or Kallis, it is just the experience (that he lacks). He has not played many games for South Africa. He has got a better chance going to Champions Trophy and doing well and making himself a household name," he said.
On A B de Villiers' captaincy, the 29-year old said, "He (de Villiers) is very good. He is a great player. He is one of those freaks. I am so happy that he is in my team. He is going to do just fine."
The world's top-ranked bowler said that he doesn't like to bowl to de Villiers as it dents his confidence.
"I don't bowl to him (de Villiers). I need to keep my confidence, I don't bowl to him. If I had to bowl to him in the nets, I would walk out there with my tail between the legs. There is no point. I try to bowl to the new ball batters and they leave me and make me feel good about myself," he said.
South Africa have not managed to win an ICC Trophy in years and Steyn said if they manage to win the upcoming Champions Trophy, it will be the perfect farewell gift for outgoing coach Gary Kirsten.
"It would be a perfect gift for him (Kirsten). Our chances are as good as anybody else. We just have to go there and play good cricket and see what happens there," he said.
The speedster added that the chokers' tag that has been associated with the Proteas doesn't bother him anymore.
"It doesn't matter any more, personally. I have never gone into a competition wanting to lose. I have always gone in wanting to win. If someone plays better cricket than me then they deserve it. Hopefully this time around we can play better cricket than all other teams," Steyn said.
Steyn said the fatigue factor could come into the picture at the Champions Trophy and cautioned about likely player burn-outs because of constant cricket.
"We (South Africa) have played Pakistan. I played four games against Pakistan in nine days. Came here, played every game in IPL and then I go to Champions Trophy and play every game there. That is the way it goes.
"We have only got 365 days and we have got to cram as much as cricket as possible. It is important that the players decide when to take rest and when not to take rest," he said.
"I love the game and everyone loves the game. There is no reason why we shouldn't be playing as much cricket as we can. You got to do it sensibly as a player, because if you play every single game, you are going to break down," he said.
"It is tough. But we do what we can on our days off to make sure that we are fit and fine," he added.
Former West Indies bowling great Michael Holding had praised Steyn and wondered how long could the South African last due to excessive cricket but Steyn said he believes he can continue in the same vein for a few more years and that he wants to play Tests till he calls it a day.
"I am only 29. Hopefully I can last for a little bit longer. I am good at bowling fast and that is what I want to do. I want to bowl fast till I retire. I don't want to lose 15 kmph just to play all three formats of the game. I would rather do what I am good at, as long as I can. Time would come when I have to decide, but right now I feel capable that I can still do it," he said.
"At the end of the day, Test cricket is the purest form of the game. Everybody wants to play Test cricket. I want to play Test cricket until I die, seriously. It is one format of the game where I don't feel like anybody can come out there and dominate. If you want to give up something it would be T20s and one-dayers," he added.
Indian bowlers tend to lose pace over time and Steyn said, "Conditions definitely help. If you are playing in the right conditions, there is always motivation to bowl fast. If you are playing in the wrong condition then you want to be a batsman."
India tour South Africa for a three-match Test series later this year and asked how the current crop of players would fare, Steyn said, "Hopefully not as well as they fare here in India. I am going to be biased obviously.
"I love playing against them. Most of them are good mates of mine. I have played with Virat (Kohli) and Shikhar (Dhawan), I don't know (Cheteshwar) Pujara that well but he seems like a good kid, a good guy. They are good players and they would adjust and cope and handle the conditions. But hopefully I would like to get an edge over them," he added.
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