Sri Lanka v South Africa Test - Men's
Healthy Steyn targets 500 Test wickets
South Africa spearhead shrugs off tough Sri Lanka tour and aims to blow past Shaun Pollock's record
31 July 2018, 06:51 PM AEST
Dale Steyn admits overtaking Shaun Pollock to become South Africa's highest wicket-taker has become something of a millstone around his neck.
But he is determined to prove he still has lot more to offer than merely claiming a 422nd Test victim, and has declared his intention to push on to 500 Test wickets and beyond.
The 35-year-old paceman has been closing on Pollock's tally of 421 wickets for a couple of years but, limited by injury to three Tests since November 2016, has managed only to reach, not pass, the milestone.
Having proved his fitness on the recent tour of Sri Lanka, however, Steyn wants to get the record in the bag as quickly possible and move on with the rest of his career.
"Actually, it's like a bit of a burden now," he said.
"I hope it just gets out of the way and we can just carry on. Because there's more wickets in me than 421.
"I have got 500-plus on the horizon so I don't know why we are so consumed on one number.
"When I am bowling it's like 'You're gonna get there, you're gonna get there'. I know I am, but I'm not interested in getting there," he added.
"What I am interested in doing is performing well for my country, taking wickets and winning cricket games. If I can do that, those records, that fame and all the other things you want with professional sport will come."
Steyn's 421 wickets have come in 88 Tests at an average of 22.64 and he is regarded as one of the sport's greatest fast bowlers for his ability to take wickets in all conditions.
At his current career wicket-taking rate, it would take him 17 Tests to reach the milestone which, according to the ICC's Future Tours Programme, would take him until early 2021 assuming he plays every Test and maintains form.
Steyn and Pollock are joint sixth on the list of all-time fast bowling wicket-takers. If he reaches the 500 Test wicket milestone, he would be only the third quick to do so.
His injury problems began in December 2015, and about a year later he broke his right shoulder and tore three major muscles during the first Test against Australia in Perth.
In January this year, he made a comeback after 13 months on the sidelines only to injure his heel when he opened the bowling in the first Test victory over India at Newlands.
After another six months out, he returned for the two-Test series in Sri Lanka needing three wickets to overtake Pollock. He picked two in the opening Test but went wicketless in the second.
Although Sri Lanka proved to be a tough gig for South Africa's fast bowlers in the 2-0 series loss, Steyn was happy with how his body stood up to the challenge.
"I actually quite enjoyed Sri Lanka," Steyn said.
"The interesting thing is that lot of people have been saying he's injured, he's struggling and everything like that.
"But I probably just got through the hardest Test of my career and I'm absolutely fine. That's a plus in my book. I am pretty pleased with that.
"I walked away from both of those Test matches not leaving the field once or having any problems. So the cloud of injury is, in my opinion, now gone."
And as eager as he is to get the issue of the record out of the way during the home series against Pakistan at the end of the year, he will approach his cricket as he has always done.
"When I started playing cricket I was always told 'Don't play for money, don't play for fame, don't play for records. If you are good enough it will come'," he said.
"I thought that's perfect, I'll take that. I have played for 14 years. That went quickly. And in that 14 years came all of those things. If I have to sit there and focus on one thing like records, it will consume me."
Leading fast bowling Test wicket-takers
Glenn McGrath (Australia) 563 wickets James Anderson (England) 540 Courtney Walsh (West Indies) 519 Kapil Dev (India) 434 Richard Hadlee (NZ) 431 Shaun Pollock (South Africa) 421 Dale Steyn (South Africa) 421 Stuart Broad (England) 417