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
March 1, 2011
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.
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