'The time has come to move on'

Allan Donald bid adieu from international cricket. He chose the 45-minute lunch break, during the New Zealand-Zimbabwe ICC World Cup Super Six league match at the Goodyear Park, to make the announcement.

G. VISWANATHG. Viswanath

Allan Donald bid adieu from international cricket. He chose the 45-minute lunch break, during the New Zealand-Zimbabwe ICC World Cup Super Six league match at the Goodyear Park, to make the announcement.

"It's been a wonderful time. I have gone around the world playing against the best players. To have achieved what I have achieved as a professional sportsman and a South African cricketer, I am very proud of it,'' said Allan Donald after announcing his retirement. — Pics. AFP & AP-

He was left out of the eleven after a miserable show in the first few matches. The selectors dropped him and preferred young fast bowler Monde Zondeki in his place in the playing eleven.

India's ace batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, can never forget that day in December 1996. The venue was Kingsmead, Durban, and Donald was in a duel with the little master. The Indian captain struck two great boundaries off `White Lightning.' The champion bowler's ego was bruised and soon Donald showed his mettle. He ran in and bowled close to the stumps and beat Tendulkar's defence and knocked down the stumps. Tendulkar made 15 in that first Test, but thereafter held his own against one of the greatest fast bowlers of the 1990s.

Donald has played in 72 Tests between 1992 and 2002 and taken 330 wickets at 22.25. He figured in 164 one-day internationals and took 272 wickets at 21.79, a magnificent feat indeed. He took 86 wickets against England and 57 against India in Test cricket. He was motivated while bowling against the top class batsmen in the world... like Tendulkar, Steve Waugh and Michael Atherton.

Donald became South Africa's spearhead the moment the international cricket community welcomed the African country into its fold. He was 26 then and was raring to go. He said, at the press conference in Bloemfontein, that playing for Warwickshire in the English county championship in the 80s was a stepping stone to his success. In order to preserve himself for the World Cup, Donald opted himself out of the Test cricket, after the home series against Australia. His last match was at The Wanderers in February 2002.

But his dreams were shattered, first when he was dropped for the match against Kenya at Potchefstroom and then for the crucial tie against Sri Lanka.

Everyone knew that Donald was close to hanging his boots for good. His former teammates expressed opinions that did not go down well with the champion bowler. Fanie de Villiers said he had no place in the XI. Donald did not react, but said at the press conference that he would like to be remembered "as someone who gave more than 100 per cent for South Africa."

"I was passionate about the badge and the country and about every team I have played for. The time has come to move on. It's been a wonderful time. I have gone around the world playing against the best players. To have achieved what I have achieved as a professional sportsman and a South African cricketer, I am very proud of it,'' said Donald whose single wicket cost him 133 runs in the present World Cup.

People were quick to recall his run out at Edgbaston that cost South Africa a place in the final in the 1999 competition. "I have played in four World Cups and we have had a bit of a tough time. My philosophy is that it was not meant to be. That's the beauty of cricket and professional sport.''

Donald came out with expletives when Rahul Dravid sent the ball soaring into the stands at Kingsmead in the final of the StanBank tri-series final, during India's tour of South Africa. The followers of the game can never forget this incident. But then that's the way he played his cricket. His long run up generated a lot of pace for him.

It is said that he took up cricket because he was not able to match the deeds of South African rugby legend Naas Botha. The cricket administration was happy to encourage him and it became easier for him to develop in Bloemfontein where the Afrikans sentiments are very strong. He bowled with some of the famous fast bowlers in the late 1980s, including the West Indian Franklyn Stephenson. But it was in England where he grew under the tutelage of Clive Rice and Richard Hadlee.

In all he has played in 309 first class matches and took 678 wickets. He said that he would play a part in Free State's inter-province cricket for two years. "It's time to work for a new boss,'' he said turning his face to the chief of the Free State Cricket Association. He named Tendulkar as the No. 1 batsman he has bowled to because he thought that Tendulkar, apart from `a freak' had an amazing eye for the game. "Waugh (Steve) is the toughest batsman I have bowled to. Ditto with Atherton.''

The United Cricket Board (UCB) offered him the membership in the Technical Committee. South Africa's under-19 team and national team will visit England this summer.

"His ultimate ambition is to become South Africa's coach. We will fast track that for him,'' said the UCB Managing Managing Director, Gerald Majola. Apart from being associated with the UCB, Donald has decided to offer his expertise for Sky Sports during the South Africa - England series.

"I have no regrets. There have been ups and downs, but the ups have been more. I think I will get more time for my wife Tina and daughter Hannah and son Oliver.''

Now that Donald has decided to shape the career of budding fast bowlers, South Africa should benefit in the future.