Dale Steyn is an emotive cricketer. Fast, ferocious, entertaining, always watchable. These traits are well reflected in the first line of his Cricinfo profile which references his “scary eyes” and “throbbing veins” – not to mention the ability to swing the ball both ways, which has made him perhaps South Africa’s best ever paceman.
But it seems his opinions on the IPL can swing as sharply as his bowling. Steyn, who is currently representing Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League, stated that the importance given to cricket in the IPL is low compared with other T20 leagues in the world, notably the PSL, of course.
An apology followed a day later when his words were swiftly repeated around the world and stoked the ire of Indian supporters and players, but it appears this is not the first time that Steyn has given vent to negative feelings about the event – which we will come to.
First though, the words from the interview with Cricket Pakistan that caused such offence.
“I found that playing in these other leagues was slightly more rewarding as a player,” Steyn said. “I think when you go to IPL, there are such big squads and so many big names and so much emphasis on maybe the amount of money players earn and everything like that, so sometimes, somewhere down the line, cricket gets forgotten.”
“When you come to like a PSL or the Sri Lankan Premier League, for that matter, there is an importance on the cricket. Whereas, when I go to something like the IPL, that gets forgotten and the main topic is how much money did you go for in this IPL. That’s just me being brutally honest.”
Brutal honesty, however, is not always appreciated and a Twitter storm, which we know to be barbed but highly ephemeral, followed. With almost every news outlet worldwide also carrying the story, Steyn was forced to backtrack.
“The IPL has been nothing short of amazing in my career, as well as other players too,” he tweeted. “My words were never intended to be degrading, insulting, or comparing of any leagues. Social media and words out of context can often do that. My apologies if this has upset anyone.”
Yet his view is not new and as far back as 2008 he was also forced to swallow some humble pie after aiming some criticisms of the leading T20 tournament.
Then, he said that the IPL “was only four overs a game. It’s like a paid holiday: you only had to work hard if you felt like it, which is why we [Royal Challengers Bangalore] finished second-last”.
Twitter was just a young chick on the social media scene, meaning his utterings had less impact, but he was still forced to apologise.
“I was speaking just moments after being named as South Africa’s cricketer of the year at a gala banquet and I was pretty emotional,” he said in mitigation. “I was trying to be funny and just ended up being stupid – I was an idiot.”
Wind forward 12 years or so and here we are again. As the Propellerheads once sang: “There is fashion, there is fad/Some is good, some is bad/And the joke rather sad/That it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.”
Genuine apology, or realisation that it’s not really smart to kick the goose that lays the golden eggs? Probably the latter, even though Dale’s IPL form was not demanding inclusion in the 2021 edition anyway.