Caution is Donald’s watchword

“In the Champions Trophy, you have to peak within three weeks. One mistake here could see you packing the bags,” says the legendary South African pace bowler Allan Donald, who is now Sri Lanka’s fast bowling coach.

Allan Donald... his money is on Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

For sometime now, Allan Donald has been following a new routine. His day starts with honing the skills of the Sri Lankan fast bowlers. And even when it is time to wind up for the day, the South African bowling legend is still discussing cricket with his wards.

With the Champions Trophy round the corner, the newly-appointed fast bowling coach of Sri Lanka is busy preparing his pacers for the big tournament. Speaking to Sportstar from Colombo, Donald says that the ‘underdog’ status would eventually help Sri Lanka perform better in the Champions Trophy, which begins in England on June 1. “We are not being spoken about. We will take it like that,” he adds.

Donald’s tone then changes suddenly. After a pause, he says: “Ultimately, who would have it easy would be decided once the first ball is bowled.”

This is something the South African has even told his wards during the preparatory camp in Kandy. Aware that even a minor slip could mar the team’s plans, Donald says he has advised his boys to keep calm and stay focussed on the job. “Remember, in the Champions Trophy, you can’t afford to make mistakes,” he warns.

While he regards India, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa as the four top teams, Donald says he has his money on Sri Lanka. This, according to him, is not because he is involved with the team; it is because Sri Lanka, not being a talking point of the tournament, puts it in a better spot. “It is a fine side. Once the tournament starts, every thing is important. You have to be on the money in those three weeks,” he says.

According to Donald, with Lasith Malinga spearheading the Lankan pace attack, the team is slowly getting into the winning habit again. “Malinga has injected a lot of energy and inspiration into the side. That’s a very important thing,” he maintains. However, every time he speaks about the Champions Trophy, Donald makes it a point to stress on the word ‘careful’. Being part of South Africa sides that have choked in the final stages of the ICC events in the past, Donald knows very well that one mistake here could send the team packing. “You have to peak within three weeks, and one mistake here could see you packing the bags,” he says.

Lasith Malinga has injected a lot of energy and inspiration into the Sri Lankan side, says Allan Donald.   -  Getty Images

Donald is someone who believes that in cricket, there is no short-cut to success. “That’s what I tell my boys. All you can do is to give your 100 per cent,” the fast bowling coach says.

Sri Lanka is the fourth international side that Donald is coaching. Previously, he had short stints with England and New Zealand, followed by a long one with South Africa. “This is a very short stint (of two months). My job is to help the bowlers and guide them individually,” he says while making it clear that the impact of his coaching would be evident only after a few weeks.

Though the White Lightning admits that he has a tough task on hand, Donald hopes that the tournament would deliver some exciting cricket. “On paper, South Africa is a top-ranked ODI side. Even India and Australia are equally good,” he says, adding that India’s performance would depend a lot on how Virat Kohli performs.

Having worked with Kohli at Royal Challengers Bangalore in the past, Donald has a fair idea of how the India captain picks himself up after a string of failures. He is confident that Kohli will bounce back, shrugging off his poor performance in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Despite having a star-studded side, Royal Challengers Bangalore, led by Kohli, struggled in the League. Donald, however, is of the view that it won’t have any impact on the Indian captain. “Virat is one of those players who would pick himself up and look ahead. He is a fighter. He is a strong man, a strong character and a great leader. I have no doubt that he will come back in a great way in the Champions Trophy,” Donald says.