Johannesburg: Pakistani veteran Wasim Akram on Tuesday hoped South Africa's Allan Donald will return to form at the World Cup, saying there was no substitute for experience. The two elders of the modern game, both aged 36, have had a contrasting tournament to date with the Pakistani making a mark in his fifth World Cup while Donald struggles to contain the runs in his fourth.
But Wasim backed Donald to return to form in what is the last international appearance for both players. "Allan is a great fighter and he will overcome his recent bad form - experience always counts," Wasim said, adding he had a suggestion for South African fans. "If he does not take wickets, I hope the fans in South Africa will start supporting another old man - me." Wasim, One-day cricket's leading bowler with 498 wickets, has already picked up seven victims in two games besides contributing 33 and an unbeaten 20 with the bat.
Donald, on the other hand, is set to lose his place in the South African line-up after being hammered for 0-54 against the West Indies and 1-52 in 5.5 overs against New Zealand. South Africa lost both matches, leaving the hosts in danger of being knocked out in the first round. "I think Donald is short of match practice and leaving him out against Kenya was a mistake," Wasim said. "Age is not on our side but I am enjoying this World Cup as if it's my first. I hope Allan feels the same excitement too."
Both players developed a close bond while playing together for many years in English county cricket - Wasim for Lancashire and Donald for Warwickshire. "He is a great friend and we have socialised a lot together," Wasim said. "Our friendship began when Donald hit me on the chin with a short ball. They put in 20 stitches on the chin and the scar still remains. I always remind him of it when we meet." Wasim said his mentor Imran Khan's advice to always be positive under pressure should hold Donald in good stead. "Imran's never-say-die approach was infectious, he always told me to be positive under pressure and I would advise Donald to do the same," said Wasim, who claimed 19 wickets when Pakistan won the 1992 World Cup.
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, who scored a match winning 134 not out in Sunday's win over South Africa, also backed Donald. "Allan's under huge pressure. But he still has the experience to win the Cup for South Africa," Fleming said. The host needs to win all its remaining three matches in Group 'B' to stay in contention. Wasim said South Africa was unlucky to have a bad start. "It goes down to bad luck, losing by three runs to the West Indies and losing to New Zealand after scoring over 300," he said. Wasim said the pressure which comes by being the hosts in telling on Shaun Pollock's men. "I played two World Cups in Pakistan and went through enormous pressure as people expect you to win every game. South Africa is now feeling the same pressure."