Australia news January 14, 2015

Doherty admits he's under pressure

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Xavier Doherty has an excellent rapport with George Bailey, who will lead Australia during the early part of the World Cup © Getty Images

In Xavier Doherty, Australia's selectors know what they're going to get. In himself, Doherty knows what he can give: solid, serviceable left-arm spin, shorn of frills but well endowed with consistency.

Self-knowledge alone does not always bring confidence nor performance, however, and Doherty admitted on Wednesday that he was feeling under pressure to demonstrate that his World Cup selection ahead of Nathan Lyon, among others, will not be seen as a mistake.

Doherty pondered his Cup chances many times over the past few months. He had reason to wonder where they might be headed when Lyon was trialled in Zimbabwe and the UAE, and those thoughts only grew in urgency as the announcement of the Australian 15 crept closer last week. More than once, Doherty dropped himself.

"It's a nice one to get and you never know. I had myself in the team, then out of the team, and gradually the closer it got I wasn't sure at all. So when the phone call came I was pretty excited," he said. "I tried to avoid all the talk and the speculation but any time you seem to turn on the TV someone's throwing a name up there and a smokey position and usually for that spinning spot.

"Given there was so much speculation, I probably do feel that expectation to really nail it, and when my opportunity comes to take it."

An unassuming Tasmanian well acquainted with supporting cameos rather than lead roles in any team victory, Doherty is happy to concede his job in the tournament may turn out to be peripheral. He also said, a little apologetically, that in ODIs the crowds are not there to watch him bowl, but to see plenty of runs scored.

"It's part of the game," he said. "The spectators want to see runs and boundaries and sixes and that sort of thing, so I think that's the way the game's been going for a few years now and that's probably why the fielding restrictions have changed from five men to four to really up those scores a little bit. That's something we've all got to accept and try and deal with as best we can.

"I'm under no illusion I probably won't play every game, and there are probably certain pitches where I'll be looked at to come into contention. Given the way the team's been picked over the last few years, there's a game in Perth and Brisbane, and given the strength of our fast bowlers that would be the way they would look. But I feel if I'm bowling at my best I can make it pretty hard for the selectors as well."

Central to Doherty's selection is the selectors' belief that his less ambitious spin bowling is better suited to the playing conditions inked into the game since late 2012, when captains were reduced to having only four men outside the inner ring, making it exceptionally difficult to set fields for anything but the most precise bowling.

The national selector Rod Marsh made it clear that Lyon, Cameron Boyce, Fawad Ahmed and others had all been put to one side by concerns about the runs they might concede under the prevailing rules, and Doherty agreed the loss of an extra boundary rider had played in his favour.

"It makes it tough for legspinners, which has probably given me a bit of an advantage when it's come to this selection," Doherty said. "You really can't afford to bowl bad balls because you've lost that protection to one side of the ground. So when you're spinning the ball in, for me to a left-hander, it does make it hard. It means one side of the ground's going to be unprotected.

"Coming out of the Big Bash where you've had five men out, just bowling in the nets then you've got in your head, half those shots they're hitting over midwicket now are going for four or six without that extra man. That's something you've got to adjust to, but that's the way the game's been going. The authorities are after higher-scoring games and that's the way it's turning out and that's what this World Cup will be, high-scoring affairs I'd imagine."

Like Nathan Hauritz, the man then ahead of him in the queue, Doherty was injured at the time of the 2011 World Cup. His experience as the spin bowler most consistently called upon since that tournament should give him a greater sense of comfort and confidence during the tournament, as he matures after the fashion of most tweakers.

Initially, that comfort will be aided by the fact that Doherty will be working with George Bailey, his longtime state captain for Tasmania. They have been through a lot together, and while Doherty said he had generally been given greater freedom by Bailey than the full-time captain Michael Clarke, he has also been left exposed once or twice - notably against Kieron Pollard in the last over of the 2012 World Twenty20 semi-final in Colombo.

"George and I have known each other for a long time, so he probably gives me a bit more rein than Pup does and knows my game a little bit better so will trust what I can do," Doherty said. "George has been captain of this team quite a bit in the last few years as well, so I think everyone's pretty comfortable under his leadership and I think it will be pretty smooth when Pup does come back into that."

Pollard, of course, won't be at this World Cup. It is a credit to Doherty's persistence that he will be.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Xiong on January 15, 2015, 15:03 GMT

    @Rough_Fan Once the 2 new balls aren't new anymore every quick on show is going to get thrashed around the park. That's how ODI's are set up nowadays. If you think that's any different for Aaron, Ishant, Yadav, Bhuvi or Shami then you're kidding yourself. I think Steyn is the best fast bowler in the world but after the ball stops swinging I can't see him tearing any good batting lineups apart on the roads we're going to be dishing up, let alone anybody else. I'm guessing we'll see at least 5 scores over 400 in this WC, probably more as we're using some of the smaller grounds that see little or no international cricket normally. Grounds that you probably don't even know exist.

  • Chalu on January 15, 2015, 10:55 GMT

    @electric_loco_WAP4:: Starc and Johnson will be thrashed around the park this WC by ABD,Kohli,Afridi,Mculam,Dhoni etc. Just wait and watch Aus knocked out before semis...

  • Android on January 15, 2015, 7:38 GMT

    really when Australia have been playing Muirhead and Boyce in the t20 why not just select them for the world cup, Doherty is pretty much useless, he has probably had the worst returns in bbl4 as a front line spinner, even look at Zampa for the strikers, he is bowling really well so just y dont Australia look to these younger guys.

  • rob on January 15, 2015, 7:35 GMT

    @ ELECTRIC_LOCO_WAP4: Yeah, gotta agree with that. Anyone who under-estimates Starc with the white ball is playing with fire. Some of his recent form has been outstanding. He gets heaps more swing and generally bowls 150 + when it's not a slower ball.

  • sam on January 15, 2015, 1:12 GMT

    @Rough-fan - If you think Starc is out of form after watching him bowl in Sydney,well its your rather rough assessment!Was easily standout bowler that game,had our batsmen hopping about with his 90 mph balls and if not for dropped catches picked a 5 fer.

  • John on January 14, 2015, 21:58 GMT

    The only way I see Doherty, a non-batting, non-fielding, non-spinning slow bowler, getting a game is if Maxwell is unable to play. I can't see any rank turners in prospect, so Aus will pack the side with batsmen and try to outhit the opposition. Doherty won't be picked, not because he can't bowl, but because he can't bat.

    @dunger.bob: the reason you can't remember X tearing a side apart is because he never has. His best in FC cricket is 6-149 and he has never taken a 5fer in any other form of the game.

    @davo62: Hoggy isn't closing in on 40, he's getting further away. He'll be 44 by the time the WC starts.

  • Alan on January 14, 2015, 19:11 GMT

    Doherty needs to stay tight in the mind all this self doubt is just fluff

  • Francis on January 14, 2015, 16:09 GMT

    57 ODIs 54 wickets ave. 39.18 S/R 4.75

    was his selection ever in doubt???

  • Xiong on January 14, 2015, 11:10 GMT

    I don't get the reasoning. The only reason Doherty appears to have more control over the run rate than Lyon is because Lyon is willing to throw it up and try and get batsmen out, whereas Doherty goes the Ashwin/Jadeja/etc. route where if you get hit once or twice you just dart them in faster and fuller. Lyon can bowl darts too, he just generally chooses not to because, well, he can actually spin a cricket ball. Surely if you're part of the selection panel or the management of the Australian team you can select Lyon instead, and simply get Clarke/Bailey to instruct him to bowl darts if things are getting out of control. Surely it's better to have more options than less, because Doherty doesn't bring anything to the table in terms of drift, dip or spin. I'd rather 2/60 in the middle overs than Doherty's 0/49, which appears to be control but is generally in the middle overs where 5 an over is the aim of the batting team.

  • Mashuq on January 14, 2015, 10:37 GMT

    Couldnt agree more @KEITHMILLERSHAIR that "Doherty isn't a BAD pick, and he's not a great one either." I would have gone with a leggie to add variety who would only bowl (and play) occasionally. Fawad?

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