Donald eyes new ball once again

Neil Manthorp 28/09/2000

Allan, Tina, Hannah and Oliver Donald returned to South Africa a couple of days ago and the family are delighted to be back.

The prospect of international cricket has not been more exciting for Dad since ‘the return’ itself nine years ago and Bloemfontein feels as much a home to Mum and the kids as Birmingham does back in England.

There is still plenty of confusion amongst South Africans as to why Allan chose to play for Warwickshire this winter rather than tour with South Africa so let’s set one thing straight: it wasn’t about money.

The truth is, the English county were extremely wary of signing Donald after his injury-wrecked Benefit Year with them in 1999 and the fast bowler agreed to take a ‘performance-based’ salary this winter to insure the county against paying out huge sums of money for a man to lie on the physiotherapist’s table.

So why did he do it? The answer, apart from the stability and valuable time it gave his two children, was loyalty. Donald felt guilty about being injured during the 1999 season and he wanted to repay the county and it’s supporters this season. Ironically, and sadly, the rhythm of the entire season was disrupted in the first fortnight when he dived to take a catch on the boundary and fractured a couple of ribs. It put him out of action for almost two months and he never really recovered in time.

“Heck it was frustrating,” he said on Wednesday. “I was in my best form and rhythm for atleast six months, too. I was feeling fantastic. But, you know, sometimes I feel it was ‘meant to be’, that maybe it was supposed to keep me fresh and hungry for the rest of my international career…”

And he certainly is fresh and hungry! Seven months ago he was talking about joining the ‘300 Club’ in test matches. Now his talk is of the ‘400 Club’ after seeing Courtny Walsh and Curtly Ambrose join that elite!

“I had a problem with my ankle briefly but it’s fine now and I’ve been bowling in the Free State nets for the last couple of days – and feeling good, too.” So, any change of role for SA’s greatest fast bowler – like bowling first-change in Tests, for example?

“Ha Ha…actually, I’ve been particularly pleased with my control of the new, white ball in the nets. Fordy has asked me to practise with the new ball because he thinks I might need to take it in a couple of one-day matches this summer. My control has been really good.” Just as it should be, too. A team’s best bowler should be used to strike early as often as possible.

As for the future, well, tomorrow Allan will attend a press conference in Jo’burg at which he will re-confirm his commitment to every South African fixture up to and including the 2003 World Cup. On current levels of determination and enjoyment, he’d happily say ‘yes’ to the 2007 version as well.

 

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