Opinion: Imminent Steyn and Smith returns restore confidence

Batsman Faces Bowler

Dale Steyn's return to red ball cricket and Graeme Smith's controversial new position at the Benoni Zalmi is Jonhenry Wilson's focus this week. 

Dale Steyn is less than a month away from a return to competitive cricket - thank goodness. I'm far more pleased with Steyn's imminent comeback than I am concerned by AB de Villiers being picky about what series he plays for the Proteas.

Steyn's absence from the Test match bowling attack, despite the long-standing favour of Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel's consistent enough success, has been far more glaring than de Villiers' non-attendance. A bowler will sooner turn a contest with an exacting spell than a batsman will with an innings of hard graft.

Steyn was rather wasted at the Cobras, too. I'm pleased he is returning to the Titans, who will offer a substantially stronger platform for passage back into the Test XI than the Cape Town-based outfit would. The Cobras limit themselves with conservative, inexpensive moves - and therefore plateau. The Titans - admittedly a more lucrative franchise - are, in some instances, maverick in choice and deed.

The 34-year-old Steyn, let's not forget, is within five wickets' reach of becoming South Africa's leading Test wicket-taker. The proud recipient of 417 victims, the pace ace has the legendary Shaun Pollock's 421 in sight. While one wouldn't begrudge Steyn achieving the milestone against Bangladesh in September, doing so against India later this year or Australia in 2018 would be far more fitting.

As entertaining as it would be to see him take the new-ball alongside Kagiso Rabada, Steyn shouldn't be rushed back. If Morkel does, indeed, sign a Kolpak deal and Philander is perhaps rested, then Steyn will be required soon rather than later, but doubts remain around whether or not his body can still withstand the rigours of first-class cricket. Some four-day cricket with the Titans is certainly needed first.

He has, in the interim, unfortunately, lost significant ground in his rivalry with James Anderson. Few can now argue that the South African is as good - if not better - than the Englishman, based on current or past form. While Anderson is closing in on 500 Test wickets, Steyn is still in 400's teens - and, as much as it irks to state, is now more comparable with Stuart Broad.

Meanwhile, it is greatly satisfying to see Graeme Smith back in cricket, properly. A superb, insightful television pundit during the Proteas' recent Test series with England, Smith has since been appointed head coach of the Benoni Zalmi ahead of the inaugural T20 Global League - and will be assisted by Geoffrey Toyana.

True, Smith's arrival is as much a marketing move as it is for cricketing reasons - and Toyana will probably be the unsung hero - but the decision makes sense, regardless. Ensuring that a former player of such positive influence remains in the game can only be good for South African cricket, even if his work is confined to being the face of Zalmi for now. In time, like Mark Boucher at the Titans, he can add genuine value in local coaching circles.

I, like you, I hope, am intrigued to see how the weekend's T20 Global League player draft pans out. More particularly, I trust some spots are kept for relatively unknown players - not just international and franchise big guns. The Benoni, Stellenbosch and other franchises effectively have a communal prerogative to uplift some of the semi-professional talent within their respective regions. So, for every seven or eight mainstream recruits, I'd like to see one or two unconventional, developmental names.

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