With the ball, Donald definitely knew what to do in crisis. But now, he has a different challenge; that of handling a team whose performance in their first two seasons in the IPL has been nothing short of a crisis.
After finishing at the bottom of the points table in the IPL-V, Pune Warriors India have undergone quite a few changes in their team management, as well as the squad. Last season, they had Donald as the bowling coach, Praveen Amre as batting coach, Paddy Upton as mental conditioning coach; and for everything else, they had Sourav Ganguly. Come 2013, Upton is gone to Rajasthan Royals, and is replaced by Rob Walter. Ganguly is not in picture, and most importantly, they have a head coach.
Ask Donald about his thoughts on how big is it for him and “Intimidating,” is his first response. “It’s intimidating to see the superstar cricketers you have got to deal with, different cultures, different egos. There are guys you have played against, and now you are their coach. But it’s important to stay calm. If you panic as a player, you lose. If I panic as a coach, I am going to slide out of this very quickly. It’s a huge stepping stone and learning curve for me,”
the 46-year-old added.
He has got his ideas clear about what went wrong last season, and knows what needs to be done to correct it. “Last year, we were a bit gung-ho about our selection. We went for quick fixes at times. If you look at the successful teams, they have stuck to a certain group of players for long periods,” Donald said.
A great example of it was Marlon Samuels, who batted from No 1 to No 5 and nobody quite knew what his exact role was. “Last year he went from opening to batting at No 5, and that’s never going to work with a quality player. Same was the case with Robin Uthappa. He was frustrated,” the former South African
Another factor, which is very important for Donald, is the team gelling together, and working in the same direction. “What we want is for everyone to swim up one stream and not in different directions, as it went last year. Negativity spreads cancer. It does. It gets players talking amongst themselves. For me, that care factor is huge. I want players to look after each other.” What could act in Donald’s favour is the strength of the squad, at least on paper. With the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Ross Taylor, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, they have got some genuine match-winners. “It’s about how we deliver. April 5, at 8 pm, when they cross that boundary rope in Hyderabad, they are on their own. Preparation is done. It’s about how we put things together, and try and get that early momentum and confidence, which is very vital,” stressed Donald.