Donald admits to ‘journey into the unknown’

Allan Donald has coached all over the world, including international spells with England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and, of course, the Proteas. He has coached in the Indian Premier League, on the county circuit in England, and was recently confirmed as the Knights head coach in Bloemfontein.

But nothing has prepared him for his current assignment as coach of the SA Veterans team as they prepare for the Over-50s World Cup in and around Cape Town from 11 March until the final, at Newlands, on 24 March.

“So much of modern coaching revolves around analysis and preparation, but this time it’s a journey into the unknown because the vast majority of us know nothing about each other,” said the great fast bowler, who took 602 wickets for his country in 72 tests and 164 ODIs.

“It is old-fashioned coaching in its purest form; we’ll have to think on our feet, read the situation and react quickly to how the opposition are playing. That’s what makes it so exciting for me. It’s like playing a golf course without having yardages, you have to trust your instinct.

“The only player I know is England’s captain, Mark Alleyne, who I played county cricket against for years. We play Wales in our opening game on Wednesday and I know they have four spinners, that’s about it. But then, at our age, I think most teams will have at least four spinners!”

Each of the 12 teams will play at least seven games - eight if they reach the Bowl, Plate or Cup final - within the space of just 13 days which will put a significant strain on the squads, but also provide an opportunity to gather information with every game being live-streamed by Pitch Vision.

“It’s a good job we’ve all got 16 players because we’re going to need them - and my evenings might be spent looking at the footage of our next opponents. It feels like a 1 000-piece jigsaw at the moment, but it’ll get easier once we’ve started. There’s an awful lot of experience and some wise old foxes in our squad.”

The level of dedication to training and fitness has genuinely surprised the coach: “Ryan Maron has done an amazing job coaching the squad while I was still in Bloem with the Knights, and Jonty led them in some gruelling fielding sessions before he had to fly to India. They have been pushed hard but they’ve enjoyed it.

“There is a lot of respect for this tournament and a lot of awareness thanks to the sponsor, Evergreen Lifestyle. People have been coming up to me in the street and asking me what our chances are. Usually they ask about the Proteas but now all the talk is about the Over-50 World Cup. It’s seriously exciting,” Donald said.

South Africa’s opening game, against Wales, is at Cape Town Cricket Club on Wednesday. Entrance is free to all games.