Hopes of Dale Steyn's availability for the Bangladesh Test series have been dashed after the seamer ruled himself out of the opening round of first-class fixtures next week. Steyn was planning to make his comeback for the Titans' match against the Dolphins on Tuesday but has decided the load of a four-day match is too much for someone who has been out of action since last November.
"I've decided not to play right now. I'm bowling fine but I haven't hit the full workload I'd need to handle four-day cricket or a Test so I decided it was best not to play," Steyn told ESPNcricinfo on Thursday.
Steyn's reluctance to rush back is mostly because he is mindful of breaking down again - as he did in Perth when he broke the bone in his shoulder that sidelined him - and leaving the team without sufficient resources. Instead, he will target shorter formats for now. "Playing the four-day game would have given me a chance for selection in the Tests but I don't want to put myself or the team in a position where I pull up again. Some shorter cricket might be the better answer for a reintroduction."
The only franchise cricket for next month, before the limited-overs games against Bangladesh, are the first-class games. Steyn is considering playing at a lower level to get some overs in the legs. "I might just play some club stuff in Pretoria or Cape Town. It doesn't really matter to me at what level it is, I just need some cricket and I thought going from nothing to possibly bowling 30+ overs was a bit of a risk. It sucks, but I want to play for a few more years, not just till then end of October.
"It's been a frustrating time, but I want to play for a few more years and I'm confident I will. The longer stuff is too much right now, so we wait for possibly the white ball to come around."
Even if Steyn does not manage to find full fitness by the time the three ODIs and two T20s are played, he will be part of the inaugural Global T20, which starts on November 3. Steyn has been acquired by Cape Town Knight Riders where coach Jacques Kallis is confident he will be able to make use of Steyn throughout the tournament.
"Having chosen him for the Knight Riders, I've kept a close eye on him. I was under a little bit of pressure from the owners asking 'Are you sure?' He's busy bowling seven overs a day at the moment, and doesn't want to go into a four day game upfront. He's worried about bowling 18 overs in a day, so I think he just wants to ease into it a little bit more and make sure he's 100% fit," Kallis said, at an event in Johannesburg earlier in the week.
"It's a very mature decision he's made and I think he will still have a massive impact this season. When he's fully fit he's as dangerous as any bowler in the world and he will be 100% at some stage. I know he's as hungry as ever, he's hungry to achieve and he will normally always find a way to do that."
Without Steyn, South Africa's Test attack for Bangladesh will likely be the same as the one that played in England with Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander - who will play for the Cobras next week - the first choices, and Chris Morris and Duanne Olivier in reserve. The Test squad will be named after the opening round of matches, which concludes on Friday.