ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

World Cup 2011

Mature Dockrell gears up for bigger tests

The left-arm spinner has achieved much in his first year in the Ireland side, and the World Cup is a chance to take that big leap forward

Brydon Coverdale

March 1, 2011

Comments: 11 | Text size: A | A

George Dockrell was impressive again for Ireland, Afghanistan v Ireland, ICC WCL Division 1, Rotterdam, July 4  2010
George Dockrell: Aiming High © Getty Images
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George Dockrell is used to passing important tests. When Australia came to Dublin last June for a one-off one-day international, the then 17-year-old gave up the chance to face Ricky Ponting and his men because he was sitting for a high-school biology exam.

"I got a B in that, so it was worth it in the end," Dockrell says.

He'll be looking for an A-grade in his next major assignment, and instead of answering questions about living organisms, this one is a practical examination. Can he get inside the minds of England's batsmen at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday?

In his first year in the Ireland side, Dockrell has already shown so much promise that Somerset have signed him to a two-year deal. And as Eoin Morgan has proved, a foot in the door at the county level can be the first step towards Test cricket for an Irishman. Of course, Dockrell dreams of playing Test cricket for Ireland, but he knows that unless his home country makes rapid progress to becoming a full member of the ICC, England is the only option.

Every chance he gets to bowl to the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss is another important learning curve for Dockrell, a spindly left-arm spinner who at 18 already looks a natural in the limited-overs formats. His first-class journey has only just begun, but his Somerset coach Andy Hurry has been impressed with Dockrell's maturity beyond his years.

"He's got real potential to fulfill that goal of Test cricket," Hurry says. "At the moment his strength is definitely one-day cricket, where the batsmen tend to be quite attacking, which helps his game. But he's also very, very resourceful in his understanding of his cricket. He's thoughtful in his slight variations of pace, slight variations in flight, and that is something that he's worked out himself. He keeps trying to work the batsman out."

He certainly got inside the heads of a few batsmen in the Caribbean last year when he found himself bowling in the World Twenty20. By the time he had delivered ten balls in the tournament he had two wickets.

Dockrell's skiddy style suited the pitches in the West Indies, and he finished with 3 for 16 against the hosts and 0 for 19 against England. Ten months on, Dockrell still swims in the green Ireland jersey, although he has bulked up a fraction. And now he knows he can match it with quality opposition.

"I was a 17-year-old then and I wasn't sure how I was going to go, playing against Test nations, playing against England and all those teams," Dockrell says. "That really gave me the confidence that I could put in those performances."

Not long afterwards, Somerset came calling. Hurry says they immediately liked what they saw.

"We invited him down to have a look at him and he really impressed us for a number of reasons," Hurry says. "The first one really is how intelligent he was, not only as a human being, academically, but also from a cricketing perspective. He's really switched on, very aware of what his strengths are in his bowling. One of the key things that encouraged us to sign him was not only his huge potential, but most importantly his character.

"He has vision and drive and motivation to be the best he possibly could, his mental strength and also his ability to learn quickly in other aspects of his game like his batting and fielding, and also his work ethic down in the gym. He's very strong-willed and knows exactly what's required for him to be successful and to get to the next level in county cricket and then hopefully one day to Test cricket."

It has taken a strong will for Dockrell to juggle cricket with his studies. That won't change any time soon, with his Ireland and Somerset duties unlikely to stop him from hitting the books again next year.

"I'm looking at maybe going to college next year, I'll potentially have a place in science at Trinity College in Dublin," Dockrell says. "You can only play cricket for so long, so I'd like to mix the two of them [cricket and study]."

There's something very Daniel Vettori-like about Dockrell. Both began in the junior ranks as fast bowlers. Both switched disciplines and burst on to the international scene as teenage left-arm orthodox spinners. Both have natural cricket brains and a bent for science, although the game got in the way of Vettori's plans to study pharmaceutical sciences at university.

And like Vettori, Dockrell is showing a few of his older team-mates how it's done. Ireland's World Cup began with a loss to Bangladesh, although Dockrell played his part to perfection, collecting 2 for 23 from his ten overs, and he will be a key man in their campaign to make the quarter-finals.

That task continues on Wednesday, when he'll be cheered on by his father Derek, who will be in the crowd in Bangalore. George's mother is a college lecturer and Derek is an architect, and the man responsible for instilling a love of cricket in his son many years ago.

George was also a keen hockey player, but cricket won the battle. He hung up his stick around the age of 14, perhaps no coincidence that it was also around the time of Ireland's 2007 World Cup heroics.

He would come home from school and try to get time off his homework to watch the games, the St Patrick's Day win over Pakistan still embedded in his mind to this day. And if Dockrell has his way over the next couple of weeks, he'll help create some vivid memories for the next batch of young Irish stars.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 11 
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Posted by Ankur on (March 2, 2011, 20:55 GMT)

This lad has all the attributes, as he gains experience he could morph into a fine bowler.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 2, 2011, 17:18 GMT)

Ireland deserve Test status..ICC is realli unfair with Ireland..they beat pakistan in 2007, n now they reach target of 320+ against England..Ireland play so good T20 also..ICC must gv Ireland Full Member..they should get it be4 but i dunno y ICC is so unfair with Ireland

Posted by John on (March 2, 2011, 15:01 GMT)

@Ronsars: apart from the fact that bowling spin successfully on the subcontinent is not nearly as difficult as doing it in the rest of the world, Swann has bowled very well in the limited opportunities he has had. In 4 games, against India and Bangladesh, Swann has taken 24 wichets (that's 6 per game, when 4 per game is regarded as excellent). The two games against India were his first two tests and he took 4 wickets in each, admittedly expensively, but that's to be expected. Against Bangladesh last year he took 16 wickets @ 25 each in two games. Apart from that, his number of wickets, average and strike rate in tests over the last two years has been streets ahead of everyone else. Even Harbhajan has admitted he learned from Swann. So if Swann's not the best, who is?

Posted by John on (March 2, 2011, 14:46 GMT)

@Something_Witty: don't injure yourself, I enjoy reading what you write, even if I occasionally disagree with you. Aus has lots of spin bowlers in their late 20s with averages in the 40s. Among the left-armers, the three who have played recently, Doherty, Beer and Krejza, are all in that category. Hauritz is an offie but still fits the same profile. Smith is younger, but his average is also right up there. O'Keefe's a little better, but that might be because he hasn't played many games. You'd be hard put to it to name any Aussie spinner with anything like Dockrell's potential, though, wouldn't you? As for being defensive, you might be too young to remember Tony Lock, but he was as attacking as it gets. Bishen Bedi was a wonderful attacking bowler. Derek Underwood was the best bowler on a bad wicket I've ever seen. Don't judge all SLAs by the current Australian crop. Dockrell would be a real asset to Australia.

Posted by django on (March 2, 2011, 11:30 GMT)

@Ronsars, I am an Aussie but name me a better spinner in the world than Swann at the moment. The subcontinent is not the be all and end all of a spinner. Just like Aus isnt otherwise Murali would be an average spinner. I know he's not. If Swanns not the best over the last few years then name me one who is?

Posted by ashok on (March 2, 2011, 11:14 GMT)

@something_Witty, arrogance can't pay Aussie the victory... Spinners have bundled Aussies in numerous occasions - example 2011 WC warm up in bangalore... where were you at that time? I was in the ground watching it...

Posted by django on (March 2, 2011, 11:06 GMT)

Watching him now he is not really that impressive. He really cannot turn the ball at all. Cam white turns it more. Flights it well but gee, not much else really. Monty was a 100 times better prospect and look what England did to him!

Posted by Luke on (March 2, 2011, 10:32 GMT)

@Something_Witty: I wouldn't rate out spin stocks that highly, mate. Dockrell seems like he has a lot of potential and a lot of time to develop it and most importantly, lets face it, the Aussie team could do with a few more smart people in it. Warne was amazing for Australian cricket not just because of his spin but also because he has an incredibly good understanding of cricket. Ponting is not a bad leader but he, and nobody else in the side, has that sort of intelligence anymore.

Posted by VINEET on (March 2, 2011, 3:23 GMT)

@landl47:Agree with your comment that it would be tough for him to get into Eng side given the kind of spin talent the side has but to call Swann the best spinner in the world is a big joke.He no doubt is good bowler but unless he proves himself in tests in subcontinent he can't be branded as "already the best spinner in the world "

Posted by John on (March 2, 2011, 0:47 GMT)

Haha landl, that's highly amusing. I believe I'm about to pop a blood vessel in my head from laughing too hard. Ha. Ha. Ahem. I don't think he'd get a look in for the Aussie side, and we have more than enough defensive left arm dibbly dobblers in FC cricket. (I think there are 3 of any note). It really is bizarre, Hilditch's sudden fetish for left arm dobblers. They have always been seen as defensive bowlers (because they are). That is not how Australians play cricket. Hopefully the SCG test was Michael Beer's first and last test for Australia. Not that I have anything against the man, he's just not good enough. As for Dockrell, he's very young and already looks pretty good. But again he has the problem of being a SLA bowler. SLA bowlers tend to be a dime a dozen in minnow sides because of their defensive capabilities. Unfortunately it usually means that they are found wanting against the bigger sides. Best of luck to this youngster though.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.

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