New Knights coach Allan Donald cannot wait for the first ball of the 2020-21 domestic season to be bowled at the start of next month – a moment he has been waiting for since his appointment in February.
The former Proteas fast bowler and global cricket great is a familiar face to the Central region, having grown up and spent his entire local career terrorising batsmen there.
But he had never been head coach of the franchise until the call finally came in February when he was named as the successor to Alan Kruger. He formally took office on 1 May, but with Covid-19 striking, it has made his wait to lead the Knights even longer.
And with Cricket South Africa (CSA) finally announcing the fixtures following months of hard work behind the scenes on 9 October, there is now an official start date for the campaign, which for Donald, can’t come quicker.
‘I’m super excited and I’ve said it so many times, I’m so happy to be back,’ he said. ‘It’s not a place where I just come in blind; I know the system really well, I know the surroundings and it’s a place where I grew up and played all my cricket, enjoyed my cricket and had a lot of success.
‘I think the hard work we’ve put in behind the scenes focused on working on our culture, identity and how we want to go about our business. It’s one thing I experienced way back when I started out here was that there’s always been a wonderful camaraderie here in the Central region of South Africa and how well we’ve gelled together.
‘I’ve had a front-row seat in many dressing rooms around the world. I’ve been with a lot of international teams and, using that experience with the Knights, I feel I can add a lot of value.
‘It’s finally arrived where at the age of 53 I get a gig as a head coach, so I’m really psyched and extremely pumped for the summer.’
Donald, an ICC Hall of Famer for his outstanding career with the Proteas, admits that the wait to get going has been difficult, but he believes it was also beneficial to him and his coaching staff.
‘It has been one of the most challenging things I’ve had to deal with and I’m not just speaking from a personal point of view,’ the former fast bowler explained. ‘I think all coaches and people all around the globe will tell you the same thing.
‘Everyone has had to deal with this issue and find a way to make it work. We started up at the end of June with one-on-ones, we all know the restrictions that were in place. We all know how that affected us.
‘If I can say one thing that was amazing that came out of this, the one-on-one sessions with a player, getting to know him on a personal level, his character and his personality really well, that was really good.
‘It was nice having a guy in there spending 90 minutes with him, learning about the person himself – the way he plays, the way he thinks, that was great. So that was the one very good take-out from this. That pure communication was fantastic.’
The Knights have made a whole host of new signings for the season ahead, most notable among them Farhaan Behardien.
‘It’s been a long wait, but I think everyone is fitter and hungrier to play cricket than ever before,’ Donald adds. ‘I think from our point, the 17 contracted players that we’ve got. I think we’re very blessed.
‘A good blend of young and experienced players in the team. The big thing for us was that 17th player that has been contracted was a big thing for me personally. I wanted someone that was a very experienced guy and we’re delighted to have that guy in Farhaan Behardien, a guy that has played 14 years for the Titans and now finds himself in the Central region for the next couple of years.
‘It’s great to have his experience and his leadership. The overall leadership and knowledge that he brings to a young group of players is just brilliant as well, those that are still making their way into the game.
‘We’re just excited by where we are right now and for now it’s just about looking forward to November 2 when we take to the park against the Warriors in Bloemfontein.’