Allan Donald has been appointed head coach of the Knights franchise, a job he will start at the end of the current season. Donald's tenure with the team, which is based in Bloemfontein where his own career began, will start on May 1, well in time for the 2020-21 season.
"We felt that the Knights needed someone with extensive international coaching experience, who has coached at the highest level of the game to take the team to the next level," Wayne Schonegevel, Knights' selection convener, said in a statement. "Allan is one of South Africa's greatest-ever cricketers and someone the players look up to, coupled with the fact that he has his roots in the central region, makes him the ideal person to achieve this goal."
Donald's appointment brings the number of former internationals in charge of domestic franchise teams to four, after Ashwell Prince (Cobras), Robin Peterson (Warriors) and Imraan Khan (Dolphins). Donald, the former South Africa quick and bowling coach, will take over the baton from Alan Kurger, who succeeded Nicky Boje on a one-year contract last April.
"I have had a sneak peek in most international dressing rooms, and I want to bring that international language to the Knights dressing room" Allan Donald
The 53-year-old has accumulated a wealth of coaching experience since retiring from the game in 2004, having worked with Sri Lanka and New Zealand, apart from South Africa, at the international level as well as Warwickshire, Kent, the Mountaineers, Pune Warriors India and Royal Challengers Bangalore. His most significant role in the South African system was as bowling coach in the Russell Domingo era between 2013 and 2015, while his most recent post was at Kent, where he worked as assistant coach for two years. Donald has since returned home to South Africa, where he worked with Free State Cricket as a consultant first, before taking over the Knights' role. This will be Donald's second stint as the head coach of a team after he had led the staff at the now-defunct Pune Warriors India in the IPL in 2013.*
"I have wanted to do this coaching position for a long time and I look forward to this challenge," Donald said. "It is a big challenge. We have not had the best of seasons in the past years in terms of consistency and winning games, and most of all winning trophies. I have had a sneak peek in most international dressing rooms, and I want to bring that international language to the Knights dressing room."
Significantly, Donald's appointment suggests that at least one franchise - Knights - expects the domestic structure's status quo to remain in place for the coming season after the proposed restructure was rescinded by the Member's Council 11 days' ago. Last April, the 14 provincial presidents who form the highest authority in South African cricket put forth a plan to eliminate the franchise tier of the domestic game and put in place a 12-team provincial structure in its place. The South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) claimed they were not consulted about this and took Cricket South Africa to court over the changes. SACA withdrew their case when the plans were scrapped.
While there has been no formal announcement about the way next summer's domestic fixtures would be played, it appears that the four-day and one-day franchise tournaments will go ahead alongside the three-day and one-day Provincial Cup. The future of the Mzansi Super League, the franchise T20 tournament that has cost CSA more than Rand 100 million [US$ 6.6 million approx.] in each of its two years due to unsold broadcast rights, is yet to be decided.
Corrected at 13.43 GMT: We had erroneously mentioned the Knights' stint as Donald's first as head coach of a team.