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Proxy server: Donald’s misplaced logic

Allan Donald, the England bowling consultant, is trying to stir up passion and fury in the England camp, writes Rohit Mahajan.

india Updated: Jul 31, 2007 02:54 IST
Rohit Mahajan
Rohit Mahajan
Hindustan Times

Ten years ago, on an intense, difficult day of cricket, the final of a one-day tri-series in Durban, Rahul Dravid riled a certain fiery paceman with a six and a four.

Allan Donald didn’t like that one bit — he walked right up to the young Dravid, locked eyes with him, giving a look of utmost fury and disgust, speaking words that were not pretty.

Dravid’s eyes lit up but he did not react, but Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin complained to Hansie Cronje — and got worse language for his trouble.

Later, Donald justified his actions and words, writing that “that sort of confrontation goes down well in South African sport and some of the Indian cricketers didn’t like it”.

The Indians still don’t like it, and Donald continues to do it — by proxy.

Donald, now the England bowling consultant, is trying to stir up passion and fury in the England camp. “Donald seems to believe that the Indians can still be browbeaten in this manner,” says a British journalist.

Donald, though, seems to have omitted to note a crucial point — the Englishmen are not quite up to it, unfortunately. The act doesn’t quite fit, for this England bunch is far too polite to be really nasty. Then, words can hurt if the bowlers can do bodily harm — again, unfortunately, the England bowlers don’t have the pace to scare a club cricketer. The wickets they’ve got so far have come through guile and swing rather than vile words or scary hits.

Zaheer Khan pointed his bat at Kevin Pietersen on Sunday and suggested that at the end of the game, England would be grovelling. Later, asked what the provocation was, Zaheer laughed and said: “Well, it was nothing, really!”

An action like that doesn’t come out of nothing. Apparently, a jelly bean candy had been placed on the track and Zaheer’s advent was greeted by laughter and this schoolboy prank. Then Zaheer edged the first ball through the slips for four, and Pietersen let loose beautiful words.

Interestingly, Pietersen started his cricket in South Africa, as did Matt Prior, the most voluble of wicketkeepers.

Prior defends the verbal jousting that was so much in evidence at Lord’s and here at Trent Bridge.

“It’s never nice when you’re batting and there are 11 blokes around you giving you a barrage,” Prior says. “It can be uncomfortable, but it can definitely be used as an advantage. “So it’s important to have 11 people hunting together, creating intensity and making the batsman uncomfortable, and it’s even more important on a flat wicket, or when the ball’s not swinging, or there’s a big partnership,” he says.

Unsurprisingly, that bat-pointing incident occurred when England were in trouble.

But does sort of gamesmanship work? It possibly does. Zaheer remained unbeaten, but India lost their last three wickets for eight runs. Then, on Monday, with Pietersen looking comfortable with the bat and India distraught, S Sreesanth bowled a delivery that seemed destined to pitch on Pietersen’s head. Pietersen slipped under and slumped to the ground, glaring at the bowler in injured fury. Evidently, the ball had slipped, and Sreesanth apologised. But Pietersen was clearly roused, if not rattled.

On the third ball Pietersen faced after that, he was dismissed.

It’s no wonder, then, that Australia, the best team in the world in terms of skill and preparation, is also the best at sledging.

Again, it’s no wonder that Donald, trying to fire up a team desperate to match Australia, is honing England’s verbal skills as well.

May the worst talker win.

First Published: Jul 31, 2007 02:52 IST