He walked haltingly but stood resolutely. One of the most memorable moments of first India- South Africa Test was an injured Dale Steyn limping out to bat during his team's second innings despite being ruled out of the series already. The 34-year-old pacer's comeback from injury in the ongoing rubber had been ruined by another injury but he was unwilling to let go of any chance to be a part of the action.
"... I figured, at that point, we probably needed another 20 runs just to feel a little bit safer. I figured, if I go out there, I could block," Steyn, who would be using crutches for the next few days to avoid putting any pressure on his injured left heel, told Cricket South Africa's official website after the match.
He had drawn a massive applause from spectators for each of his blocks during the five-minute unbeaten stay at the crease which ended when AB de Villiers' all-important wicket became the last to fall for the hosts.
"It was not that bad but there was no running involved. It's not quite a Graeme Smith walking out with a broken hand moment, but I'll claim it anyway," the fiery speedster laughed recalling the iconic vigil by Smith against Australia in 2009.
Smith, the then South African captain, had walked out to bat at No.11, hoping to survive 8.2 overs against the Aussies despite being injected with his own blood to mend a broken right hand. He could not stop an Australian win but found all-round admiration for his tenacity.
Steyn had injured himself on the second day of the match, which the home team won by 72 runs when he landed awkwardly after delivering a ball. But he refused to stay in the dugout when the Proteas found themselves in a spot of bother at 130/9 in the second innings.
Skipper Faf du Plessis later said that Steyn had padded up to bat even before the matter could be discussed with him.
"We said if by any chance AB is still there, Dale can just go and just stand there and hopefully AB can smash a few sixes. The plan wasn't to get him to bat and injure him more," du Plessis said after the game," du Plessis said.
"He was padded up before we spoke about this to him. I feel incredibly bad for Dale. He worked for over a year. He was challenged through periods where he started and got injured again, and then started and got injured again."
Steyn is expected to recover in six weeks' time.
"Luckily it's not his shoulder again. The foot, or injury that he has, is something you probably can get over a lot quicker and we are looking forward to bringing him back in the fold when he's fit again," du Plessis said.
(With PTI Inputs)