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'It's about stepping up and trying to be the man': Glamorgan starlet Donald is happy with his hype

SAM MORSHEAD: Aneurin Donald was the youngest man to make a double century in the County Championship for the Welsh club, no one else had made a first-class double faster and he finished that campaign with more than 1,000 runs

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Glamorgan batsman Aneurin Donald

Aneurin Donald doesn’t mind being talked about. In fact, Glamorgan’s precocious 21-year-old says, the hype is somewhat helpful.

Donald knows what it means to carry a weight of expectation on young shoulders.

As a teenager he shot to prominence with a bafflingly brilliant 234 in 136 deliveries against Derbyshire at Colwyn Bay.

He was the youngest man to make a double century in the County Championship for the Welsh club, no one else had made a first-class double faster and he finished that campaign with more than 1,000 runs.

Michael Vaughan touted him as a future England international, perhaps even national captain.

In the 18 months since, Donald has not quite been able to reach those dizzy heights of July 2016 - last year he averaged 27.50 from 21 Championship innings - but his stock is still high.

For someone with just 17 first-class matches to his name, the predictions of greatness and the memories of that brutal breakthrough innings might sit a little heavy.

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Donald has been tipped for the top

But this is a confident man.

“I really enjoy it. For some of the people to come out and say what they have about me is very nice and I’m very honoured and that’s where I want to be.

“I like having this expectation on me, it really drives me. It’s part of that driving force and with good reason. Everyone wants to play for England.

“To be in the position where people are saying nice things about you is a privilege not a pressure. I’d much rather be in that position than not.

“It’s about parking it to one side and doing what you have to do. If I’m not scoring runs and winning games for Glamorgan, it’s not going to happen.

As Nye Bevan, the welfare state pioneer after whom Donald is named, famously said: “We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.”

For Donald to avoid onrushing traffic, he needs runs - “they are our only currency,” he says, referring to all those batsmen in the county game who have aspirations to represent their country.

The right-hander has already got a good flavour of life in an England shirt, having played for the Under 17s and Under 19s, whom he captained before the 2016 World Cup.

There, Donald gave a glimpse of the invention, ingenuity and sheer hitting power which manifested itself in such extraordinary fashion at Colwyn Bay five months later; his self-styled slap scoop, a feat of immense timing and bravado, among the shots of the tournament.

Last season might have been comparatively lean but Donald hasn’t lost any of his self assurance.

“It’s the most confident I’ve been in my technique and my game,” he says, crediting his state of mind to a winter spent in Cape Town on the Gary Kirsten Academy. “I’ve always had bits of success but its consistency that’s been the issue. That’s what I’ve worked on and I’m confident I am going to be more consistent.

“It’s about stepping up in the batting group, trying to be the man, trying to be the guy who wins it and more importantly trying to lead from the front.”

Donald is a compelling interviewee, leaning forward in his chair, maintaining eye contact, open to questions on topics spreading a scale between sports psychology and the width of cricket bats.

It’s easy to forget at times that he is just 21 years old.

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The 21-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2016

“Age is just a number,” he says.

Who are we to argue?

Despite being very much part of Generation T20 - Donald admits that he cannot remember the sport at a time when the concept was not part of the fabric of the summer season - the son of Swansea still holds the longest form of the game in the highest of regards.

“You get judged on your red-ball career,” he says, when asked about the recent phenomenon of players taking white-ball only contracts.

“People look back on your stats and see how many hundreds you got and what your average was.

“As younger guys we’ve grown up on a diet of T20 but there are so many opportunities out there that it would be daft to rule yourself out at a young age.”

And so onto 2018. When we speak, Glamorgan’s opening fixture is just four short days away and Donald’s eagerness to get back to the middle and prove himself all over again is visible in every facial twitch when he talks about batting. He smiles throughout.

The Cricketer asks if Donald the batsman takes the same approach to his work as Donald the interviewee.

“If you don’t take the odd good ball or bad umpiring decision with a smile and a little bit of laughter then it’s going to be a long career,” he says. “That’s the only thing you can do.”

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