When Warwickshire lifted the Royal London Cup at Lord’s in September, the joy resonated among their supporters throughout the world.
And no-one was more thrilled by the victory than a certain South African who had just finished a coaching-stint with the Australian team on tour in Sri Lanka.
For wherever in the world Allan Donald is – and he has been to most places – you can be he sure he is keeping right in touch with events at Edgbaston.
Donald’s glowing CV as fast-bowler supreme and then bowling coach has taken him all over the world. His expertise has benefited plenty of clubs, teams and governing-bodies across the globe.
But he admits: ‘The Bears are in my DNA.’
The paceman’s place in the pantheon of all-time great Bears is forever secure. He powered Warwickshire to the County Championship title in 1995 with 88 wickets at 15.48 apiece (despite many groundsmen preparing slow pitches to try to nullify his threat) but, beyond that, gave everything for the team or years.
His sky-high skill-levels were backed by a total commitment which saw him, on numerous occasions, bowl all the way through a session. In 1992 he ploughed through 576.2 championship overs. This from a strike-bowler. And despite that workload he continued to strike – very hard. In that ’92 season he took 74 championship wickets. In ’91 he took 83 – at 19.68 apiece.
It’s easy to see, then, why Donald drove himself to the heart of the affections of Warwickshire as a club – and stayed there. And you know what? That passion is 100 per cent reciprocated.
In 2016, A.D’s desire to see Warwickshire succeed has diminished not one jot.
“The Bears are in my DNA,” he said. “Even more than Free State. I say that respectfully because I made my debut as an 18-year-old for Free State when Chris Broad handed me my cap playing against Transvaaal. But in 1987 I came over to England and that is where I grew up.
“Because of the isolation that South Africa were in, I came to England to play professional cricket playing against the best players. There were wonderful Test cricketers from all round the world playing county cricket. And I got a front-row seat!
“That’s all I wanted, just to play against the best. When I was small, my grandad subscribed to the Wisden and Cricketer magazines and I would go to their house for a rugby or cricket match on a Saturday and go through those magazines and look at who was playing – Viv Richards or Malcolm Marshall. I saw all these guys playing county cricket and wondered if it would ever happen for me.
“Then my lucky break came in ’87 when Warwickshire’s cricket manager David Brown spotted me. We played a one-day game against Australia and Dr Ali Bacher brought David into our dressing-room and David said: ‘Would you like to come and play six months of county cricket?’
“And there it was. I never looked back.
“I would say that Edgbaston is where I grew up as a cricketer. I still feel emotional every time I come back. I follow the Bears religiously and send messages to the club at the start of every season, wishing them well. I was so pleased they won the 50-over cup.”
Every Bears fan who was around in 1995 will have their own special memories of that championship win: a triumph which somehow managed to match the ’94 title for excellence, excitement and feats of individual brilliance. Twenty-one years on, Donald recalls it with pride and joy as great now as they were at the time.
Sitting in 2016 in the spacious home dressing-room which would dwarf that in which he prepared to torment batsmen, his face lights up as he recalls: “It was a very, very special year.
“In terms of my whole career, that was definitely me getting to my peak. In ’95 I felt I was in control – in control of my bowling and my thoughts.
“That season was an awesome performance from everybody in the squad. It was a fantastic championship in ’95. You had to fight for every game. It was definitely the best county championship I could ever recall.
“It was a hot year, it hardly rained and all the skills that define cricket were needed. But we walked out on to that field feeling unbeatable. Once we walked out there we knew everybody was in control.
“It was a seriously experienced team, a confident team with very good leaders and we just fancied ourselves to beat whoever was in front of us.
“It was an awesome season with some great, great mates. And it will never leave my heart because of what the club means to me – not just the people who I played with but all the people who had come and gone before: All the tradition and culture of Warwickshire County Cricket Club that is so special.”