Xavier Doherty handed World Cup audition
Xavier Doherty will make his ODI debut at the MCG next Wednesday, while Victorians recover from Tuesday's Melbourne Cup festivities, but the only winning ticket he's interested in is one to the World Cup. Doherty is the latest spinner to be called into Australia's side and the chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, believes he is the frontrunner to partner Nathan Hauritz at the World Cup.
Doherty celebrated his call-up with 5 for 83 in Tasmania's Sheffield Shield match against Victoria at the MCG. The stands were all but empty and it will be a vastly different experience in front of up to 40,000 people next week against a Sri Lankan side adept at handling spin bowling, but Doherty's success was a good sign all the same.
"It's been one of the better days in my cricketing life," Doherty said. "I was on a high after getting the news last night. Coming here today I had a bit to live up to and luckily things went my way today, so it was pretty pleasing.
"A little confidence boost like that never goes astray. It's good news to get going into a Shield game. I was pretty nervous going into this Shield game. I hadn't bowled in a four-day game for six months, so I was quite nervous, which is a bit unusual for me, so it definitely helped."
He hasn't played a lot of first-class cricket in recent seasons, but it's hard to believe Doherty has been overlooked for so long in the shorter formats. Last summer he was the leading wicket taker in the FR Cup with 20 victims and it was merely the latest in a string of strong one-day campaigns. He will arrive on the international scene at the age of 27, and believes it is the perfect time to make his international mark.
"Spin bowlers are very different," Doherty said. "You get batsmen who are 21 and fast bowlers that are 18 or 19 can come in to this system, but for spin bowlers it's always going to take a bit of time. Some guys will pop up at 20 and go missing and then come back in to it. I think it's pretty perfect timing for me, because it's allowed me to play 80 games for Tasmania and be in a lot of different situations and gain a lot of experience."
A left-arm orthodox bowler, Doherty is not a vicious turner of the ball but has thrived in the shorter formats, where he troubles batsmen with his clever changes of pace. Tasmania have enjoyed one-day success by using Doherty in tandem with Jason Krejza, and he said the arrival of Krejza in Hobart four seasons ago had given him a serious jolt.
"It was a bit of a kick up the bum when he came down to Tasmania, because I was the main spinner and all of a sudden I was straight out of there," Doherty said. "Having that competition for the spot has definitely made me a better cricketer."
It must have been good for both men, as they have each received approval from the national selectors since Krejza's move. Doherty could get a few more calls judging by the words of Hilditch, who said Australia would aim to take two spinners to the World Cup and a left-armer would be ideal.
"That would be pretty exciting to hear but there's a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then," Doherty said. "That's late February, so there's quite a bit of cricket going on now. If that opportunity pops up that would be great, but it's a long way away."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo