The White Lightning strikes!

Allan Donald talks coaching and day-dreams of an attack featuring Steyn, Morkel and himself

Chennai 16 April 2013
They say, a successful sportsperson seldom makes a successful coach. But that theory has been proven untrue by those who understand one simple truth – a good mentor assesses his wards on the basis of their abilities and not his own.

One legendary cricketer, who not only understood that at the very beginning of his coaching career, but has also inculcated it as the basis of his mentoring methods, is Allan Donald.

South Africa’s first truly great fast bowler, Donald’s transition to coaching was as smooth and subtle as his bowling action.

Currently in India as head coach of Pune Warriors India, the ‘White Lightening’ shared his coaching mantra with in a delightful chat.

He spoke of the joy of coaching Dale Steyn and wondered how it would have been to bowl alongside him for South Africa. Donald told us what impresses him the most about his PWI ward, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Here’s the complete account of the interview.

IPL – an adventure to remember

It was very intimidating for me at the start of this season. But it was always going to take time before we get some structure and build a sense of belief within the team. It’s fair to say that we’ve been up and down with our performance so far but the win over CSK was very special in a way that some young guys really stepped up and showed their worth.

When I say this is intimidating, it’s because it involves working with such massive cricketers that come together for two months as a team. For me, to try to know these guys as characters and people and understand their games was a challenge. When I left home to come here, I said to myself, ‘I’m strapping myself in for a ride that I’ll never forget’. And I’m learning all the time.

The coaching mantra

For me, cricket is all about attitude. For me to come here and tell Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashok Dinda how to bowl, is not the key. For me it’s important to everyday tap their attitude to what they do and should do. It’s about me being able to inspire those two guys to perform something special. On the morning of the CSK match, I had a little session with them, we had a chat and the way they responded was fantastic to see.

Respect for individuality

One thing I’ve always told myself is that you cannot tell people how you did things as a cricketer. You’ve got to understand and know the people you’re coaching because they are different characters. Therefore, you have to treat them differently to everybody else. That is the greatest thing about coaching. Then you can start working with individuals to encourage them or change their attitude and on the whole, make an impact on their lives. To come here and try to overcomplicate things is never going to work.

The young Indian turk

I saw this last year when I was the bowling coach of the team that Bhuvneshwar Kumar is not someone who’s going to bowl at 150kmph. Where he’s very smart is that he has sorted his game out and he swings the ball both ways. Sometimes, he gets a bit too floaty. But he is learning how to make adjustments with his lengths and keep varying it. I read somewhere that maybe it’s time to leave him out for a while and give someone else a chance. But when you’ve got so much skill and talent, you don’t sit out. It’s just the matter of us giving them a bit of backing and faith.

Dale Steyn’s biggest fan

I’ve always been a massive Dale Steyn fan. Dale, for me, is like a racehorse. He’s gracious and has the most fluent, uncomplicated and clean action. Not for nothing he is the world’s best fast bowler. I just love what he brings to the game and I love what he does for South Africa.

What if?

I wish I did. If I were to bowl with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, we would have formed the most prolific attack. But working with them is unbelievably special. They are, at the moment, and hopefully for a long time to come, the best fast bowling pair in the world.
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