Bengaluru, September 28: The story goes around that once Dale Steyn had apologised to Mumbai Indians' batsman T Suman after getting him out when they met after that particular IPL match in 2012. This is to say that off the field Steyn is a mellowed man, a far cry from that snarling, vein-popping pacer on the field.
In the IPL 2020, that off-field amiability of Steyn seemed to have transgressed into the on-field Steyn, softening him up. Perhaps, that retro, Bjon-Borg like coiffure fits the character and image well. But the Royal Challengers Bangalore does not need that Mr Nice Guy at the moment, albeit on the field. Steyn needs to rediscover that furious self to rattle batsmen.
The underwhelming Steyn has taken the edge out of Royal Challengers attack. Perhaps, the spate of injuries have turned him into a more cautious man, trying to prolong his career. Steyn's struggles have made even more palpable as Umesh Yadav too leaked runs at the other end. Of course, at 37 Steyn is not the outright express bowler of the old, now bowling at mid and late 130s and tipping over 140 kmph occasionally. A reminder to the days when he terrorised batsmen with pace and swing.
Steyn had a rather dim start against Sunrisers Hyderabad, giving away 33 runs in 3.4 overs for the wicket of Sandeep Sharma. It also helped Steyn that he was defending 18 runs in the final over against tailenders.
His spell against Sunrisers read: 1-0-6-0. 1-0-7-0, 1-0-13-0, 1.4-0-7-1.
However, the match against Kings XI Punjab exposed Steyn's weakening powers. In fact, he began the match in a reasonable manner with spells of 1-0-9-0 and 1-0-8-0, acceptable considering he was bowling against KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, two aggressive batsmen always on the hunt for runs.
Steyn was near to a match-turning moment when Rahul, then batting at 83, swatted a low full toss high in the air but Virat Kohli grassed the chance at deep mid-wicket. Even then he had conceded 14 runs in that over.
Returned for his final over, Steyn ran into a rampaging Rahul. A sequence of 6, 4, 6, 6, 4 saw him giving away 26 runs and ended the spell at a woeful looking 4-0-57-0. It reminded of AB de Villiers' assault on Steyn, while he was a part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad, a few years back.
It hasn't really helped him that the pitches in the UAE are generally on the slower side and the ball had hardly swung. Steyn also has not been able to deploy his varieties, and of late his performance at the death too has not been encouraging.
Pat Cummins had laid out a blue print. The Kolkata Knight Riders pacer, currently the world's best, was taken to cleaners in the first match against Mumbai Indians, giving away 49 runs off three overs at 16.33. But the Australian pacer, the costliest foreign buy in the history of IPL, staged a strong comeback against Sunrisers Hyderabad with figures of 4-0-19-1.
Cummins assessed the conditions quickly and then altered his lengths, Test match line and length as per David Warner, and reaped benefits of a change of approach.
Now, Steyn could be replaced either with Chris Morris, subject to his fitness, or Sri Lanka pacer Isuru Udana. But Steyn is too good to go away with figures of 7.4-0-90-1 from two matches. Master craftsmen have often found renewed energy from scraps, and Steyn belongs to that pantheon.
Will Steyn find a new path and the old snarl? Or will he walk away silently?