If the credit for South Africa’s success in the modern era could be given to one player, that cricketer would be Allan Donald. A classical action and top-drawer pace would have won him a place in any side in his prime, and for much of his career he was the only world-class performer in the South African team, spearing the ball in, shaping it away and always making things happen. His strike rate was below 50 in Tests and close to 30 in one-day internationals. Known as ‘White Lightning’, he is remembered as a fearsome fast bowler, scowling and aggressive, with a circular white area of zinc cream across his cheeks and nose. When he retired, he was South Africa’s record wicket-taker with 330 Test wickets at an average of 22.25, and claimed 272 One Day International wickets at an average of 21.78
He made his Test debut on 18 April 1992 in South Africa’s first test since their return to world sport after the abolition of apartheid. South Africa lost to the West Indies in Barbados by 52 runs, but Donald took 2-67 and 4-77, including the prized wicket of Brian Lara. Inevitably, he was over-bowled and the injuries began to accumulate in the twilight of his career. He quit Test cricket after breaking down in the crushing defeat by Australia at Johannesburg in 2001-02, retired from ODIs a year later, after South Africa’s exit from the 2003 World Cup, and from all cricket a year later as his physical deterioration accelerated.
His ODI debut happened to be South Africa’s return to the international cricket. At Eden Gardens he took a five-for as he rocked the Indian top order, it took master innings from Sachin and able support from Amre to see India through. In 1997 Donald came under intense scrutiny from the international cricket media after he was alleged to have used abusive language against India’s Rahul Dravid in the finals of a one-day series. Allan Donald mentioned this incident in his autobiography, White Lightning. Donald produced yet another master spell in the World Cup 1999 semi final but later in the same game got involved in huge mix up with Klusener, that cost his team a birth in the finals.
Of Afrikaans stock, Donald speaks English with a slight Birmingham accent – at least, to South African ears – picked up during his lengthy spell as Warwickshire’s overseas professional, a role he filled with distinction. No living South African player, past or present, commands as much respect from the public and his peers as Donald, the first bowler from his country to take 300 Test wickets. He transferred his huge knowledge of quick bowling to the commentary box and coaching and took up the role of bowling coach with England in 2007. However, when it was offered full time he turned it down, wanting to spend more time with his family, and instead took up a role with Warwickshire where he had enjoyed years of success as an overseas player in 1990s.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav