Former fast bowler Allan Donald has insisted that David Miller will be a key player if South Africa are to do well at the ODI World Cup in England & Wales later this year and that he should take up the role the recently-retired AB de Villiers was doing for the side.
‘If you look at where AB has left us, Miller is absolutely key for South Africa at this World Cup,’ Donald told Sport24.
An electric fielder and a more than competent batsman, Miller has shown shades of brilliance in his 116-match ODI career. With more responsibility on his shoulders, Donald feels this the appropriate time for the left-hander to step up. Donald also said that South Africa's 'choker' tag won't go away unless they win an ICC-sanctioned trophy and he was confident the current side led by Faf du Plessis had it in them to go all the way this time around.
"Hopefully this group of players will make us proud. There is no doubt that this Proteas side is a class outfit and are well led by Faf du Plessis and Ottis Gibson," said Donald.
"The term ‘choking’ will never disappear unless we win an ICC-sanctioned event. I believe that winning a World Cup will put it to rest for good. I think it’s just a matter of finding that magic confidence that everyone is looking for and riding the wave of momentum."
Donald also does not see de Villiers making a dramatic U-turn ahead of the World Cup and coming back to South African colours. De Villiers has been in top form recently having slammed a century at the Bangladesh Premier League. There were talks in the South African media that with the kind of form de Villiers is in there maybe chance he might revoke his retirement and come back into the national fold as the Proteas gun for a maiden World Cup title.
However, Donald said that he does not any of that happening.
"I would but I think the rest of the world hopes that AB doesn’t make a last minute U-turn and avail himself for Cricket World Cup selection," said Donald. "I read that AB said he would sit down with Cricket South Africa, but I can’t see De Villiers returning to the international fold for South Africa. I think he has made his mind up and that is fair enough.
"Everyone has their own opinions on AB calling time on his Proteas career and some are harsher than others. I still believe that it’s an individual’s absolute right to say, ‘I have made a call and am moving on.’ AB has decided to move on and you have to respect that. He has a young family, is a businessman and he wants to crack on with life.
"I respect the decision he has made. We are all going to have to live with being without him."
Talking about pacers Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi, Donald said that he was very excited with what he has seen of them and insisted he did not have any doubt in his mind that the duo will lead South Africa's bowling unit for years to come.
Donald also hoped that Ngidi recovers in time from his knee injury as he would be a great asset to have for the Proteas at the World Cup.
"Without a shadow of a doubt those two will be our front-line bowlers and will lead the South African attack for quite some time," said Donald. "In terms of Rabada, the way he is going at the moment is magnificent. His wicket-taking rate is quite scary. He is a very thoughtful cricketer and intelligent guy.
"Ngidi, meanwhile, is a big bloke who is very athletic. If Ngidi overcomes his knee injury in time, he will be a huge boost for our World Cup hopes. I’ve seen Lungi working out with the South African squad and doing his rehab with the physio. The injury he sustained last November against Australia was quite severe but it’s good to hear that he is ahead of schedule in terms of his recovery process."
Donald also touched upon the four-match ban handed over to the Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed for his alleged racial comments at Andile Phehlukwayo and said that he was in support of the ICC on the suspension and that such things had no place in cricket. Sarfraz was heard saying in Urdu to Phehlukwayo in one of the ODIs, "abbay kaale teri Ammi kahan bethi hoyi hain aaj, kya parhwa kay aya hai aaj". The entire taunt translated to "Hey black guy, where's your mother sitting today? What [prayer] have you got her to say for you today?"
He later apologised to Phehlukwayo in person but his comments withdrew sharp criticism from all corners.
"I think it’s justified that the ICC have handed Safraz a four-match ban. Some would say that it’s very harsh but I just feel that if you are going to chirp someone you have got to come up with some better stuff than that," said Donald.
"It was incredibly personal and in your face to be honest. For me, there is no place for that on the cricket field and Safraz got what he deserved. The ICC have taken a strong stance towards anything malicious from a verbal point of view or anything which constitutes unfair play."