'You can't control how the ball bounces, but you can control athleticism'

Chris Donaldson (in cap with sunglasses) joins a hug with Ross Taylor and Trent Boult after New Zealand's World Cup semi-final win in Auckland in 2015 Getty Images

When Chris Donaldson speaks, words bolt out of his mouth. He doesn't so much speak as sprint through syllables. Quite like how he did on the track as an Olympic athlete.

He was once called the "fastest man in New Zealand" and holds the national record in the 200m. He took part in two Olympics, Atlanta and Sydney, set his personal best in 100m at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, and at 32 became the oldest athlete to clinch the New Zealand 100m title.

In Sydney in 2000, a 25-year-old Donaldson was at the prime of his career when he suffered an Achilles injury that required surgery. He still has a deep scar on his calf from it. "I kept going but it wasn't the same after that," he says.

But the many injuries he faced through his athletics career brought him to his current job, in cricket, as New Zealand's strength and conditioning coach.

"[The injuries] really helped me understand athletes from both sides - from being an athlete as well as dealing with the athletes now," Donaldson says.

"And, the mental side of training - you know what it takes. You also know what it feels like to train. You experience doing all the things that go with the sprinting, so it was really a good learning experience for me. I had some great mentors."

In a season when New Zealand have toured Zimbabwe, South Africa, now India, and then head home to face Pakistan, Australia and Bangladesh and South Africa, the work Donaldson puts in with the players is crucial.

"We really load them and then they taper off effectively when they are playing," he says. "They are reliving [the conditions] now which we have created there. And we come over early sometimes to try and cope with the heat [in India]."

Donaldson explains the process behind rehabilitating Corey Anderson, who played his first international game in the Dharamsala ODI earlier this month after being sidelined with a back injury for more than six months.

"This started four-five months ago and he has worked incredibly hard. He has worked in conjunction with the high performance group [staff]. There has been overall work in progress and building him. He has really been brilliant to come back to this level."

Donaldson's theories involve invoking the Usain Bolt example of applying force as quickly as possible in the shortest possible time. It's all about movement, he says.

"Sprinting and running and all that stuff is about movement and efficiency of how you generate a lot of force and go forward. It is also about being able to handle that [the speed at which you apply force at the ground]. If you can apply [the force] you have to be able to handle that."

He believes it's the force that breaks cricketers, which is why they need to manage the body, make it resilient and adaptable to cope with the workload.

"Cricket is now full noise, all year around. There are amazing athletes in all the teams. You can't control [how] the ball bounces and all that, but athleticism and training, you can control that."

He is not a big data person, he says, but tries to marry it with instinct when it comes to calibrating workloads for different cricketers. "I can actually show them, 'Look, you started from here, now you are here. You are stronger, you are faster. You were here when we did speed test and now you are here.' Just the basic stuff in understanding this is why we train, this is what the training will help in and that's the outcome we have had. If you don't understand or don't have goals or reasons to do it then it becomes really tiring."

It was his athletics coach, Brent Ward, who got Donaldson interested in training sportspersons. Before coming to cricket, Donaldson had worked as a strength and conditioning consultant with the New Zealand Winter Olympic team and Otago Rowing and found the experiences enjoyable and fulfilling.

"I had some wonderful people that helped me significantly in my life, working hard behind the scenes," Donaldson says. "You realise I have been lucky enough since I have become strength and conditioning [coach]. You can see why coaches do it. It's such a satisfying feeling to see [other] players and athletes do well."

Born in Auckland, Donaldson grew up in Dunedin, and knows Mike Hesson, the Blackcaps coach, right from the days when Hesson was working with Otago Cricket. "Mike Hesson was the coach, and he was very kind to ask if I wanted to help out a bit [with Otago Cricket] and it developed from there." In July 2011, Donaldson signed with the national side in a full-time role.

He says the friendships he shares with the coaching staff - Hesson and bowling coach Shane Jurgensen - and physio Tommy Simsek have helped create a comfortable working environment.

"I think it's an open and honest kind of conversation that we had and we are trying to help each other. We are genuinely really good friends and we enjoy each other's company. We just try to keep each other up to date."

While Donaldson had a normal New Zealand childhood playing many sports, he had an "interesting lifestyle" back at home. His father, Roger, is a film director with many successful ventures, like the Kevin Costner-Gene Hackman starrer No Way Out, Species and Dante's Peak to his credit.

"I grew up in New Zealand and Dad spent a lot of time in the US for his work. Dad still lives there. It's just a job that happens to be well-known with regards to the movies that he makes."

Donaldson credits the "New Zealand system" that makes it easy to access different sporting facilities at school. Sprinting, though, was a passion aroused by the Olympic dream. "That was sort of my goal and then it just happened to be that I found it in sprinting."

Asked if he ever shows footage of himself or other elite athletes to motivate the New Zealand players, he laughs. "No, no, I think they seen enough. They love sports, all sports. They loved the Olympics recently and followed the New Zealand athletes. It's better I am in the background."