Cricket World Cup 2011

Beware Donald factor, SA

2011-03-22 13:33
Allan Donald (File)

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – He can’t have any influence on the park, which many who remember his fiery pace exploits will see as a relief, but Allan Donald will be doing his level best to help plot the downfall of the Proteas by New Zealand on Friday.

Bloemfontein-born and his patriotism presumably undimmed for the most part, the South African throat-ball legend nevertheless has a key off-field role to play for the World Cup quarter-final in Dhaka as a handy “spy” in the Black Caps camp.

The 44-year-old has been earning some plaudits for the improved discipline and work ethic he has instilled into the New Zealand attack, and more especially their seam battery, since his appointment as the country’s bowling coach.

Now he runs slap bang, as it were, into the team whose badge he once wore with rare passion as a player, and whose cause he has occasionally expressed a desire to aid – but normally been thwarted from doing so.

Instead Donald has had a fairly migratory post-playing life, including roles with England as their national team’s bowling consultant and also as a franchise coach in the less glamorous environment of Zimbabwean domestic cricket.

The Kiwis certainly appear chuffed, however, that he has more recently thrown in his lot with them.

Captain Daniel Vettori, for instance, was quoted early in the World Cup as saying: “He has obviously brought in his wealth of experience.

“But the biggest thing he has brought into the team is confidence. The knowledge he has of other bowlers (in the tournament) has also been useful.”

Considering his rich knowledge of the South African landscape as player, coach and television commentator, Donald will clearly be in a position to offer well-founded advice on the Proteas’ strengths and weaknesses ahead of the date at the Shere Bangla National Stadium.

He may also try to tap into the match-day thoughts of South African coach Corrie van Zyl to the benefit of the Black Caps, considering that they are an old new-ball alliance for Free State in the former Currie Cup and also partners at times in mentoring and coaching in the region.

Some comfort for the Proteas, of course, is that Donald has played no part in their fresh spirit of enterprise and a keep-‘em-guessing approach to strategy and team selection at this tournament.

But his coaching skills do, nevertheless, appear to have rubbed off positively on the Black Caps seamers (he has probably not tried to interfere too much in the personal plans of 270-cap ODI left-arm spinner Vettori) at the World Cup, as evidenced by statistics thus far.

New Zealand’s younger fast-medium bowlers like Tim Southee and Hamish Bennett, in particular, have responded notably well to Donald’s tuition, even if the Kiwis are grieving the latter’s premature departure from the World Cup because of an ankle injury.

Their strides have been especially welcome, considering that the Black Caps no longer possess an out-an-out speedster with Shane Bond almost a year into his full retirement from the game.

Whilst Southee, 22, is right up there among the leading wicket-takers in the tournament with 14 from six outings, decent economy has been a broad hallmark of the New Zealand attack.

Southee is only “travelling” at 3.95 runs to the over, Kyle Mills (also labouring a little at present with a quad strain) stands at 3.58, and veteran medium-pacers Scott Styris (4.31) and Jacob Oram (4.65) have not exactly been tonked about on the various slow pitches either.

So a particularly earnest “suffocation” bid on the Proteas, masterminded in no small way by Donald, seems in the offing by the underdogs on Friday ...


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