Dale Steyn: test cricketer of the year

11 September 2008

South African fast bowler Dale Steyn was rewarded for a magnificent season when he was named Test Player of the Year at the International Cricket Council’s annual awards in Dubai on Wednesday evening.

Steyn was up against three batsmen for the award: teammate Jacques Kallis, Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene, and the West Indies’ Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

The breakdown of one bowler versus three batsmen reflects the way in which big scores have become more common in test cricket nowadays; it also reveals just how well Steyn played to claim the trophy. Looking back over the past year, the SA pace ace was clearly the dominant bowler in the game.

Far ahead

In 14 tests, he captured 86 wickets at an average of 18.10. The next highest wicket taker was Australia’s Brett Lee with 58, an astonishing 28 less than Steyn.

In addition, the next best average after Steyn (of players who played more than three matches) was Jacob Oram’s 21.50; Oram, though, captured only 18 wickets.

Remarkably, during the period in which Steyn claimed his wickets, South Africa played considerably more cricket away from home than at home, so the advantage of pitches prepared to favour the Proteas was not with Steyn.

Included in the series played on foreigh soil were three series in Asia – against Pakistan, Bangladesh and India – which is often viewed as a fast bowler’s graveyard. Not so for Steyn, however.

There was another away series in England, in which Steyn was restricted to only two matches because of a broken thumb. Besides that, the Proteas had just two home series – against the West Indies and New Zealand.

Match winner

It is said that, first and foremost, to win a test match a side needs to be able to take 20 wickets. That being the case, Steyn proved himself one of the biggest match winners in the game during the past year; with two 10-wicket hauls and six hauls of five wickets in an innings, he was certainly a difference-maker.

While Steyn is a fierce competitor on the field, he is a laid-back off of it, maybe too laid back; he discovered on Friday only that he had been nominated for the award when South Africa returned from their tour of England. It was, therefore, little wonder that he described his win as “a pleasant surprise”. Based on figures alone, there was nothing surprising about Steyn winning the award.

Jacques Kallis

Although Steyn’s fellow nominee Kallis suffered through his first poor series in many years in England, some people may have forgotten just how brilliant he was in the early part of the season.

He totalled 346 runs in only three innings against New Zealand at an average of 115.33 to help South Africa take a convincing series victory.

His contribution was also immense in the Proteas’ series win over Pakistan in Pakistan. In just four innings, Kallis scored 421 runs, including three centuries and a fifty, and was dismissed twice only.

World Test Team captain

Kallis and Steyn were named in the ICC World Test Team of the Year, with SA skipper Graeme Smith named captain of the side. Their selections were a reflection of a very successful year of test cricket for the Proteas during which they scored series wins over New Zealand, the West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and England. They also shared a series away to India.

Only one South African made the ODI Team of the Year, which was a little surprising because up until a sub-standard showing against England recently the Proteas had performed very well in the limited overs format. During the course of the past year they had been ranked either number one or number two.

Other award winners

West Indian batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul was deservedly named Player of the Year, beating out Steyn, Smith, and Mahela Jayawardene for the honour.

The ODI Player of the Year went to Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India. Sri Lanka’s Ajantha Mendis picked up the Emerging Player Award, for which SA’s Morne Morkel had also been nominated, and the T20 International Performance of the Year went to India’s Yuraj Singh.

Australia’s Ricky Ponting was named Captain of the Year, Umpire of the Year went to Simon Taufel for the fifth year in succession over a list of candidates that included South African Rudi Koertzen.

Sri Lanka won the Spirit of Cricket Award, England’s Charlotte Edwards was named Women’s Player of the Year, and Ryan ten Doeschate of The Netherlands, born in Port Elizabeth and schooled in Cape Town, was named Associate ODI Player of the Year.

World Test Team of the Year 2008

Graeme Smith (SA, captain), Virender Sehwag (Ind), Mahela Jayawardena (SL), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (WI), Kevin Pietersen (Eng), Jacques Kallis (SA), Kumar Sangakkara (SL, wicketkeeper), Brett Lee (Aus), Ryan Sidebottom (Eng), Dale Steyn (SA), Muttiah Muralitharan (SL), 12th man: Stuart Clark (Aus)

ICC World ODI Team of the Year

Hershelle Gibbs (SA), Sachin Tendulkar (Ind), Ricky Ponting (Aus, captain), Younis Khan (Pak), Andrew Symonds (Aus), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Ind, wicketkeeper), Farveez Maharoof (SL), Daniel Vettori (NZ, Brett Lee (Aus), Mitchell Johnson (Aus), Nathan Bracken (Aus), 12th man: Salman Butt (Pak)

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