Dale Steyn might have missed a lot of cricket time in the last couple of years because of injuries, but is as gung-ho about playing on for South Africa as he can be.
Back in the Test squad for the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka, the 34-year-old 86-Test veteran will not just look to have an injury-free run but also get the three wickets that will help him get to 422, making him the most prolific wicket-taker in Test cricket for South Africa. Shaun Pollock holds the record with 421 wickets, picked up in 108 Tests.
“Playing international cricket at the highest level is where everybody wants to play,” Steyn told ESPNcricinfo. “I have been blessed to have played for many years whether that be for South Africa or in the IPL (Indian Premier League).
“I want to achieve certain things in my career. A 100 Test matches would be amazing and 500 wickets would be incredible.”
Unlike his peers AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel, who both wrapped up their international careers recently despite being 34 and 33 and in good form, Steyn is sure he wants to go on.
“At my age – I'm 35 (on 27 June) – I want to play a lot of cricket. I think I can push it until I'm 38, maybe even 39, and start drifting this way around that age,” said Steyn, who is currently playing for Hampshire in the English domestic circuit.
“But how much cricket can you play for your country is the most important question. If I'm going to be spending the majority of the time on the sidelines, then you might have to weigh-up that option. But I think it's a discussion that Ottis Gibson (the South Africa coach) and I might have to have, especially with a World Cup coming up.”
Steyn said that the indications from Gibson are that he will be part of the team’s plans in Sri Lanka, and if Steyn can stay the course, it will give him the opportunity to achieve some personal targets.
“He's assured me that a fit Dale Steyn is in the XI and I'm taking his word on that. Hopefully I can get the nod and can go on to get past Polly's record – that's been in the back of my mind for two-and-a-half years now – and achieve some of the personal goals I want to achieve, too,” said Steyn.
“It would be amazing to play in the World Cup (2019). But you have to play white-ball cricket to be good at white-ball cricket. Hopefully I can get some white-ball games this year leading into December and put my hand up for the spot in that World Cup team next year. So I'll play as long as my name is up there to represent South Africa.”
Steyn has just returned to the field for the first time since the first Test against India in Cape Town in January 2018. That Test, where he bowled 17.3 overs before hobbling off with a heel injury, was his first game for South Africa since he fractured his shoulder in the Perth Test against Australia in November 2016.
“I should be good to go for Sri Lanka if selected. I just needed to play some cricket. I haven't played for six months, the last time I played was the New Year's Test match against India. So I haven't played a lot of cricket and there is a lot of ring rust at the minute. I just have to get through that,” said Steyn, who is one of four frontline pacers in the Test squad for Sri Lanka, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Lungi Ngidi are the others.
“It is winter back home in South Africa so I would be at a training camp or at indoor nets. There's nothing like game time.”