“Ottis Gibson was creating an impact, but, ultimately, he was shown the door in a quite insulting manner and now BCB have appointed Donald who is a hard taskmaster, habituated to raise the game of the bowlers that are promising enough and spot new talents rather than listening to those people who rely more on nepotism. It would have been better if the BCB think of a long-term plan regarding Donald and for that, they need to give him enough freedom”
Ten years ago, Allan Donald was already drafted in Gary Kirsten’s coaching staff for South Africa as the fast-bowling coach – was asked by the reporters whether he was interested in becoming the bowling coach of Bangladesh or not. Donald, along with Mick Newell and Dermot Reeve, was understood to be on the wishlist of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) but said he will not consider the offer if he is approached.
“I have not had any approach but I would not be interested. I am doing a job I always wanted to be involved in and I have no inclination to make a move. My interest is with South Africa and I won’t give that up at all.”
Donald previously had roles as a temporary bowling consultant for England where his involvement impressed many and was praised by several players. Donald’s original brief contract was extended until September 2007 but he decided not to continue with his coaching role at the end of September 2007, citing the strain of touring and his wish to be with his family.
And, he had done work in Zimbabwe with reigning domestic champions Mountaineers in 2010 He served as the bowling coach for the New Zealand cricket team for the ODI series against Pakistan, and the 2011 Cricket World Cup, but had not coached in South Africa, even at the domestic level.
He had often expressed his desire to work in the country he had played for, but opportunities were few. Only when Kirsten chose to involve him did Donald get a taste of coaching in South Africa.
Donald’s inclusion in the South African squad brought changes in the pace-bowling department – they became the best from just being better.
The addition of Vernon Philander along with the dynamic duo – Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel – South Africa had transformed a bowling unit that did not avoid a defeat, rather, win a match, when it mattered the most. Even on decks that did not respond to pacers, the bowling unit stuck gold and quite deservingly they elevated as the number 1 Test side in the world – their sheer bowling that had the intensity of the White lightening helped them win Test series in Australia and England.
Kirsten, who took away the schoolmaster mentality and instilled freedom along with responsibility and accountability- suited Donald very much and he galvanised the Proteas bowling unit.
Since Donald became the bowling coach in 2011, in the next three years, Steyn had bagged more than a third of his total career wickets at a lower average than his overall numbers.
He became an absolute killer with the ball and again, learned to dry up the runs.
His 133 scalps have come at 21.84 with an economy rate of 2.91.
Before Donald’s tenure, Steyn had 232 wickets at 23.2 and conceded 3.48 runs to the over.
“Allan is an amazing bowler. I watched a couple of his Youtube videos before I bowled here and he was just incredible. And then every day he comes and tells you how good you are and what a legend you are. That must take a lot out of him because he is a legend himself. That’s why every time I take wickets, I try to signal to him; to try and say this is not just for the team and the fans. This is to say thank you. He keeps me going,” said Steyn.
“Every time I go on tour I want to better my last performance. Every time I come to the subcontinent I want to do well. If I run in and take a five-for on a green track, no-one cares but if you run in and take a five-for here, that really counts.”
Famous writer Firdose Moonda wrote, “That adaption and attention to discipline is something Donald has enforced rigorously since he became part of the set-up. He wants South Africa’s pack to operate under the principles of jungle law: hunt or be hunted. That approach seems to have been picked up by more than just the seamers.”
For building a complete bowling unit, Donald knew the importance of adding more variations in the armour and thus emphasised them, such as bowling yorkers.
“We want to become the best death-bowling unit in the world and we want to close games out while being under enormous pressure. With Wasim Akram, you always knew when you faced him at the death that there was no hope. He moved the ball both ways and that’s what we want to be: unpredictable, not just one dimensional,” Donald said in 2013 during the series against Pakistan.
“Not being able to bowl them often enough is what has let us down in the past, particularly when we are defending.”
“We want to practice the specifics under pressure and so we are moving more into game scenarios and executing those then. We also video these sessions so the guys can have visual feedback.”
“We want a collective group of guys who get thrown the ball and who have the confidence to execute yorkers at will at any stage. We could have a situation where Dale Steyn is the death bowler and his number may come up and he gets hit all around the park, and so we might have to ask someone else to do that. We want a collective improvement in bowling yorkers.”
“From a Test match point of view, you need to be using that new ball and using it really well, and being very disciplined.”
“You take the conditions, not only the pitch but the heat the players have got to deal with, the humidity and that sort of thing but reverse swing is massive in the subcontinent. I’ve played enough against Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis to know what it takes to be able to execute that, it’s a massive key.”
“It’s a mental thing. You really have to think about the approach and the decisions you make there. Quality decision-making wins games.”
Donald left South Africa’s job in 2015.
He was appointed assistant coach at Kent County Cricket Club in early 2017.
He was expected to join the county at the start of the 2017 season but was denied a work permit as he did not, at the time, hold a suitable coaching qualification. And for which, Sri Lanka appointed Donald as their bowling consultant for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 for two months.
Then, he was successful in obtaining his Level 3 coaching qualification during 2017 and formally joined Kent in early 2018, leading the team during the 2017–18 Regional Super50 competition ahead of the 2018 English season.
Now, Donald would start a new journey with the Bangladesh Cricket Team and his tenure would be till the Twenty20 World Cup 2022 – quite similar to Sri Lanka in 2017.
While working in Sri Lanka, Donald said, “We were in Kandy with the academy and there was a guy who came through who was about 6’2″ or 6’3″ and hit the deck really hard. He was the kind of bowler I really like. I asked if he was part of the academy and they said no, he was just a net bowler, but after we saw him there, he was included in the high-performance programme. So, a lot of the time, finding the guys happens just by chance. Everything from Under-19 level downwards really needs somebody looking after it.”
Regarding the two-month stint, he said, “It takes a while to build relationships and it’s something that needs to be worked on a daily basis. I tried to get to know personalities as much as possible but the major challenge was the communication gap. When you’re coaching, you’ve got to be precise about delivering your message, and when you’re not speaking the same language, you can never really be sure whether what you’re saying is being understood the way you meant it to be.”
Thus, it would be hard to expect something big from such a legendary bowler in such a short time who could deliver so much.
Ottis Gibson was creating an impact, but, ultimately, he was shown the door in a quite insulting manner and now BCB have appointed Donald who is a hard taskmaster, habituated to raise the game of the bowlers that are promising enough and spot new talents rather than listening to those people who rely more on nepotism. It would have been better if the BCB think of a long-term plan regarding Donald and for that, they need to give him enough freedom.