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England exam for Ponting's pupil

Daniel Brettig

November 4, 2013

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Alex Doolan celebrates his century, NSW v Tasmania, Sheffield Shield, Sheffield Shield, 4th day, November 2, 2013
Alex Doolan has found a role model in Ricky Ponting © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Ricky Ponting | Alex Doolan
Series/Tournaments: England tour of Australia
Teams: Australia

Were Ricky Ponting not Australia's most prolific international batsman of all, and Alex Doolan, the Tasmania batsman, not a studious Test match aspirant, the younger man could have been accused last summer of sustaining a level of fascination that bordered on the unhealthy. Seeking a way to graduate from the ranks of mid-tier Sheffield Shield players to those who played for their country, Doolan shadowed his fellow Launceston native with rare persistence.

No longer part of Australia's limited-overs or Twenty20 teams, Ponting spent a rare extended period with Tasmania during the 2012-13 season. Doolan took full advantage, spending every available minute watching how Ponting batted, fielded, trained and prepared for Tasmania. Even Ponting's eating and drinking habits were dissected. At some point it is not hard to imagine Ponting raising a quizzical eye to his pupil and muttering the words "still here?"

The answer, of course, was yes, and Doolan used the knowledge he was gaining to major effect, peeling off centuries against Victoria and then the touring South Africans that showcased an elegant top order method. Following a winter's learning on various overseas assignments - none of them of the T20 variety - a match-winning Sheffield Shield hundred for the Tigers against New South Wales has set Doolan up for a major examination with Australia A against the English tourists in Hobart. More runs on his home ground this week may well push Doolan into the Ashes squad.

"I think I came on in leaps and bounds last year thanks mainly to Ricky Ponting," Doolan said. "Under his tutelage, I learned more in 12 months than I had in the first five years of my career. I've got a lot to thank him for. It's not necessarily what he's said or how he's spoken to me, it's just what I did was sit back and watch him.

"I watched him play, I watched him train, I watched him eat, I watched him drink, I pretty much just watched him 24/7 every opportunity I got. So it wasn't necessarily anything he said to me but it was just an opportunity to play with the best player I've ever seen and also just be able to learn how the best player goes about it."

There is a wider truth to the Doolan example, one that Ponting himself has been pressing on his current tour of the country in promotion of his autobiography. Young players will learn most fruitfully by close observation of and advice from the players who have successfully traversed Australia's cricket grounds before them.

"Alex was a guy who averaged high 20s in first-class cricket, but the times I batted with him last year he got a hundred every time," Ponting said last month. "It's just that stuff that can't be replaced and that's not happening down through the system."

Ponting's advice and example arrived at a time when Doolan was maturing in other ways. Having moved down from Launceston as a teenager to pursue cricket, he had taken time to grow from rookie to fringe player, to consistent selection, to batting leader. Nearing 28, Doolan is batting and speaking like an adult. He has the chance from Wednesday on to show how much he has grown, and how much Ponting's example can be emulated.

"I'm not entirely sure how to put my finger on it, [but] I've grown up a lot in the last couple of years," he said. "I've gone from being a player who is just in the team to maybe someone the rest of the team is looking on to perform. It's no secret the Australian team hasn't been performing the way everyone would've liked, so I'm lucky I'm in the boat with quite a few others and fortunate to be playing this game against England."

Doolan seems at ease with the fact his summer, and perhaps his life, could turn on the events of the next week, and it helps that he has, to some degree, been here before. Asked often about playing Test cricket in the days after his unbeaten 161 against Dale Steyn and company last November, Doolan was unable to follow up the innings in a meaningful way. This was partly due to a pick and mix schedule that had him looking fluent for Tasmania one week, then sitting on the bench for the Melbourne Renegades the next.

"A lot of water has passed under the bridge since [the unbeaten 161]. Back then it was a real thrill to play against the best Test playing nation in the world. I enjoyed that a lot. It was lucky I had the success that I did. But I don't think you take that into this game," Doolan said. "To be jumping between formats from first-class cricket to one-day cricket to T20 cricket is a challenge for any player. But it was such a long time ago that it's right at the back of my mind at the moment."

Instead, Doolan's mind is full of four-day batting thoughts, the elegant shots he played at Blacktown to vanquish the Blues, and the example of Ponting. It is no surprise to learn that Doolan is reading the book of his mentor, though he used its 700-page length as a sidestep around the current controversies surrounding its publication. "I don't know exactly what's been said, I'm not up to that chapter in Ricky's book yet, so maybe when I get there I'll be able to comment a little more..."

Doolan will hope he can frustrate England's bowlers with similar deftness.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (November 6, 2013, 7:53 GMT)

Mary_786; ps I'm willing to listen to reason, now I wait for your first ever post from you that is reasonable to all players.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (November 6, 2013, 7:13 GMT)

Mary_786; I have. never called Sunil a liar as he has never claimed that it was a dodgy decision or to have seen it. The rest of you in high probability is the same person. Firstly what negative comment have I made about Khawajain this post, I have stated a fact that he was out and I haven't crucified him for it.Secondly, when you originally said I saw it and was missing leg in the game comments and now claim to have seen it and he hit it -you are clearly lying. Thirdly, I was at the game there was no really professional set up for video and have spoken to friends who have said the live streaming was quite average and inconclusive. Finally. if you have found the link that conclusively shows the footage pleas just post the link here and we will all decide. Bottom line is he was out and there was nothing slightly doubtful about it. My objective is nothing anti Khawaja but to correct the inaccuracies of your post.

Posted by Mary_786 on (November 6, 2013, 6:32 GMT)

Shaggy i guess Paul, Amith, Sunil, myself, Fleming, Edward and Hyclass are all liars and you are the one that's correct, seriously i wont' waste another second trying to convince you, bottom line is that if so many folks are stating that the kid wasn't out its fair to say that there was doubt in his decision. Anyway it all doesn't matter now,what matters is the games for this round. Good luck in all your negative comments on Khawaja, you obviously won't listen to reason and i wish you the best with your comments.

Posted by Chris_P on (November 5, 2013, 12:14 GMT)

@Milhouse79. I think you totally underestimate Warner's efforts on home soil. The guy averages 50 at home & 25 away. I'll let you in on a secret, whether FC is played in front of 2 people or 2000, imakes no difference. It is the quality of tough high standard cricket that counts. I would suggest Vaughan & Trescothick performed quite admirably in county cricket before being called up. Even the POMS didn't call up players without any form whatsoever. Doolan has really shone in first class cricket, while his record in the shorter form is very average, yet you advocate his inclusion while lambasting using First Class form as a guide? Very interesting take.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (November 5, 2013, 9:55 GMT)

Mitch Fleming; I'm supposed to believe you when you first posted you saw it from behind the bowlers arm, and now you say you have seen it on video footage. You have also changed from missing leg to nicked it. You have changed your tune so many times. Fact is it was given out and the cricket Australia commentary backs up my view. Who do you think is more credible. I would say the person that has,never changed it tune. I have seen the replay on fox sports nothing to suggest a nick to me. The way O see it there are 4 psudonymys posting pretty much the same post, with grammar very similar, their is a high chance I am only calling one person a liar..

Posted by Fleming_Mitch on (November 5, 2013, 9:24 GMT)

Shaggy can you please stop calling so many folks liars, there were replays for each of the shield games on the CA site and fox sports had replays as well due to the large interest in these games due to the ashes. He wasn't out from what i saw as well and from what about 10 other folks on this forum have said, perhaps its time to give it a rest. Lets focus on the game tomorrow bud.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (November 5, 2013, 9:13 GMT)

Sunil Batra; My post is nothing against Khawaja just reporting the truth to dispel the lies from Mary786, Edwards_Anderson, HycIass and Mitch_Fleming. Please put Khawaja case forward but dont use lies to push his case. Mary786; You are telling me to watch the replay, from a game at Glenelg oval a suburban adelaide ground where there is no footage conclusive of the incident. If there is please post the link to me. You ecpect me to believe that you have seen the replay when in the post on the game you agreed it was going down leg side and now you are convinced he nicked it. You have changed your story and people wouldnt have to read my posts if you wouldnt persist with this lie.

Posted by dunger.bob on (November 5, 2013, 8:58 GMT)

@ Sunil_Batra : re. Johnson. I don't mind if you talk up Johnson and you put up a short but effective argument. I'm a big Mitch fan myself, but, and this is the thing for me, he seems to struggle against England. The same bowler who blew a strong South Africa apart seems incapable of hitting the pitch if he's bowling to anyone in an England outfit. It's got to be mental. Has to be something in his mind. The dude is capable of some kick-butt spells against just about every other team but seems to go blind against England. ... Going with your flow though, wouldn't it be beautiful to see Mitch put in one of his "specials" and cut the legs off the Poms before they can even blink. "He bowls to the left, he bowls the right, he makes England's best batsmen look shyte". .. It's good to have a dream my mum always said.

Posted by popcorn on (November 5, 2013, 8:51 GMT)

Alex Doolan's following of Ricky Ponting reminds me of the days when the teenager Ricky Ponting would drive on his BMX bike to EVERY GAME that the older cricketers played at Mowbrays Cricket Club in Launceston, and lap up EVERY WORD they spoke after the day's play, and learnt so much about the game!

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (November 5, 2013, 7:54 GMT)

I am Khawaja's biggest fan but lets keep the focus on Doolan and the wider Aus A game tomorrow. Shaggy can you please give up your endless commentory against Khawaja, who cares if he was out or not, if he gets a century tomorrow it won't matter.And im gonna stick my neck out and talk up Johnson who a few folks have put down, Johnson is in the form of his carreer and he could well be one of our most potent bowlers …and then maybe he isn't and probably he wont …but apparently he is looking pretty sharp and bowling some heat…the poms wont much like his slingy action especially if he can get the ball in the right areas

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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