The term ‘Most Valuable Player’ or ‘MVP’ is generally a term that we associate with American sports. It can seem to give too much credence to an individual in a team sport, and as such not seem a natural fit with cricket. However, with the plethora of ICC lists of best cricketers of all time, or best cricketers in their given field of expertise, I thought it might be a good time to look at who are the five most valuable players across all three forms of international cricket right now.
Number 4: Dale Steyn
Twenty years ago it would have been a formality to pick the number one test bowler on this list. However, times have changed and just because a player is dynamite at test cricket doesn’t mean he can automatically be judged one of the five most valuable players in cricket today (Alastair Cook anyone??). With that in mind I confidently include Dale Steyn at number four on this list because whilst he is the best test bowler in the world, he is also a devastating performer in the shorter formats. The most expensive bowler at this years IPL auction, Steyn is a commodity worth owning and his stocks just continue to rise.
It’s no mean feat to become the fastest South African bowler to 100 test wickets. To achieve this, Steyn has had to by-pass the likes of Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and Allan Donald, which he has done with ease. At the time of writing Steyn is now up to 238 wickets, which he is sure to add to in the upcoming series against Australia. These wickets have come at the superb average of 23 and a strike rate of 39, which is the fourth best in the history of the game.
One of the best test performances I have seen was Steyn’s against a crumbling Australia in the 2008 Boxing Day test in Melbourne. Australia had not lost a home series in what felt like a hundred years, but in the crucial test in Melbourne Steyn took match figures of 10/154. His mixture of pace, swing and aggression was something to behold, as was his extraordinary tenacity when he scored 76 in a match-winning partnership with JP Duminy. Steyn’s performance in this test is indicative of his approach to test cricket, which is certainly commendable. Steyn has recently implored the ICC to schedule more the longest format, and actually argues that he performs at his best when he is presented with a demanding amount of cricket across all three formats.
Given he has already played 46 tests, it is somewhat surprising that Steyn has only managed 57 ODI’s. Imagine that balance for Indian player!! Some chance!! That said, Steyn has a very respectable 85 wickets at 27, with an economy rate of a whisker over 5 and a strike rate of an extraordinary 32. Like his fantastic fast bowling predecessors has been unable to deliver South Africa World Cup glory, but he seems to be able to move the white ball just about as much as the red. Furthermore, he has that fantastic ability to not only attack, but even tie down an end, thus allowing his contemporaries Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe to feast on their foe.
At international T20 level, Steyn has taken his 29 wickets at a strike rate of 16 (are you starting to see a trend?) and has impressive best bowling figures of 4/9. As mentioned, he was the most expensive bowler at this years IPL auction, and he remains committed to performing at his best for the Deccan Chargers.
At 28 years of age Steyn is right in the prime of his career and should be able to hold this unbelievable level of performance for at least a couple more years. Like Allan Donald, his action is so fluent that he seems less likely than others to suffer any major injuries. Perhaps the best bowler to compare him to of recent times, other than the obvious similarities to Donald, is the lost New Zealand talent of Shane Bond. The searing fast Kiwi had the same combination of explosive pace and deadly swing, and in fact sits above Steyn in the all-time test strike rate list. However, Bond’s career was devastated by injury and by a cricketing system that banished him for his involvement with the now defunct Indian Cricket League.
Thankfully, Steyn holds the full support of the powerful and organised South African cricket board. With his magnificent pace and passion for the game, Steyn is undoubtedly one of the most valuable players in world cricket right now. No matter the format you need to take wickets to win a game of cricket, and there is no other fast bowler who could give you a better chance of doing exactly that than Dale Steyn.
Let me know what you think about Dale Steyn and whether you think he should have been higher or lower by making a comment below, and check back next week for number three on the list.
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