“We let a lot of people down”, the captain of the South African cricket team, Faf du Plessis, said despairingly at a press conference after a consolation victory against Sri Lanka.
There was a breath of fresh air inserted into Royal Challengers Bangalore’s camp when Dale Steyn touched down in India.
It was a homecoming to a team up by a bowler who possesses an uncontrollable urge to succeed. But the speedster, at the end of an illustrious career, finds himself racing against the clock to spearhead the Proteas’ attack at the mega event that is the Cricket World Cup.
Steyn showed a sneak peek of what he is capable of in the IPL, playing a main role in guiding his side to two consolation wins.
It’s concerning, though, how Steyn succumbed to the weight of ever-increasing injuries and eventually returned to South Africa to rest up before the World Cup.
South Africa have never lacked fast bowlers. If the continual injuries cut short Steyn’s ability to be at his very best, Kagiso Rabada and his colleagues are groomed well enough by now to get the job done.
Rabada’s steaming form outlines just a small chunk of what their opponents have in store.
Lungi Ngidi is playing well and the combination of Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius lends an exceptional amount of depth.
Despite this, Steyn remains the undisputed leader of a decorated bowling unit.
And as much as the pacer has been impactful in the whites, Steyn is yet to dominate the 50-over format.
Not that Steyn hasn’t been a nightmare to face, but given the frequency of him being ruled out, the Proteas may find a crucial piece of the puzzle missing.
Steyn has made a significant influence every time he has made a comeback since his Test debut in 2004.
The rookie Steyn – alongside Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock – could manage just three wickets in his first ever Test, including castling Michael Vaughan with a peach of an out-swinger in the second innings.
Unfortunately, that performance was enough to toss him out of the side.
After playing his first Test in 2004, he was recalled to play his second after nearly three years, and Steyn thrived.
He was the automatic choice to headline the bowling attack when Pollock and Ntini reached the end of their unforgettable yet unfulfilled careers.
Steyn led the attack across the globe, including dominant efforts against Australia Down Under and England on their home turf.
Sadly, ODI cricket is the arena where fortune has had Steyn’s number.
When South Africa got knocked out of the 2015 World Cup at the Eden Park, Steyn looked like hanging up his boots soon after.
Nevertheless, the selectors’ faith combined with Steyn’s doggedness has handed him one last shot to sign off by conquering the pinnacle of one-day cricket.
The speedster is a no stranger to injuries, and neither is South Africa’s current crop of quicks.
But in a side whose batting line-up is uncertain, the fast bowlers have a great role to play.
Can the 35-year old bow out of the international arena by giving South Africa the unattained?