Legendary paceman Dale Steyn has added another dose of South African superstardom to this summer’s KFC Big Bash League after signing with the Melbourne Stars.
A week after Brisbane Heat pulled off a coup by luring Proteas great AB de Villiers for the second half of the season, Steyn has joined the Stars for their first six games of the tournament, a stint that could be extended if the 36-year-old is overlooked by South African selectors later in the summer.
One of the greatest fast bowlers of all time, Steyn retired from Test cricket in August but remains available to play white-ball cricket for the Proteas and is hoping to be picked for their matches against England on home soil in February.
But if selectors look to blood some younger players after their horror one-day World Cup campaign earlier this year, a return to Melbourne could be on the cards for Steyn.
"I don’t think we can rule out that," said Steyn, who missed the World Cup in June and July due to a shoulder injury.
"Obviously the first prize is always to play for your country. Representing South Africa is the only thing I’ve ever done for my whole career so far … so to get back into that team is prize number one.
"But if that doesn’t happen, I still want to be playing cricket. I don’t want to be sitting in South Africa not doing anything.
"So if there’s a window and a chance that I could go back over and play for the Stars, that can be open to discussion. It certainly can happen.
"But we’ve got to wait for the Proteas selection decision, and we can take it from there."
Steyn hasn’t played international cricket in any format since March; selectors said he was not fit enough for the recent T20 series against India, although Steyn himself suggested he had been available for selection.
As a nationally contracted player, Steyn needs permission from Cricket South Africa (CSA) to play in foreign T20 leagues and the fact the paceman will return home immediately after the blockbuster Melbourne derby against the Renegades at the MCG on January 4 – a month before South Africa’s ODI series against England gets underway – indicates he remains well in the frame for higher honours.
But with the T20 World Cup to be held in Australia late next year, CSA were happy to give their star quick another taste of 20-over cricket down under while the Proteas are playing Tests against England over the Christmas period.
"They’re (normally) pretty tight on not allowing players to go and play in the Big Bash," Steyn said.
"But knowing that I’m not available for the Tests, wanting to keep me fit, and also having one eye on the Twenty20 World Cup at the backend of next year, they probably felt like it was a good call.
"Which is great because it keeps me in the running for that World Cup.
"Winning a World Cup medal with your country would be a big highlight. If I can go over to Australia and get some more experience in those conditions … that could be beneficial."
The recruitment of Steyn continues a busy off-season for the Stars, who have already lured Nathan Coulter-Nile and Hilton Cartwright away from Western Australia, re-signed Nepalese leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and announced David Hussey as head coach, replacing Kiwi Stephen Fleming.
The Stars moved in on Steyn shortly after he announced his Test retirement in August and with his red-ball days behind him, the South African says he’s looking forward to taking part in a competition he’s admired from afar for many years.
"It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while," he said.
"When you’re sitting back here in South Africa and you’re watching it, it’s such a well-run operation in Australia. It’s brilliant. I think Cricket South Africa could learn a couple of things from the Big Bash."
Steyn’s six matches will take him on a tour of some of the BBL’s smaller venues; he has two matches at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast while he will also play in the Victorian country town of Moe, Launceston in northern Tasmania and the Sydney Showgrounds before the mouth-watering derby against the Renegades – a replay of last season’s final – at the MCG.
Given de Villiers has only signed for the second half of the Heat’s season, the two South Africans won’t cross paths during the tournament, unless Steyn returns later in the summer.
Melbourne Stars squad: Glenn Maxwell (c), Hilton Cartwright, Jackson Coleman, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ben Dunk, Sebastian Gotch, Peter Handscomb, Clint Hinchliffe, Sandeep Lamichhane (OS), Nic Maddinson, Jonathan Merlo, Lance Morris, Dale Steyn (OS), Marcus Stoinis, Daniel Worrall, Adam Zampa (two to be added)