Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney December 30, 2013

Doolan inspired by Ponting's words


Graeme Swann would probably like Alex Doolan, for nobody could accuse Doolan of being up his own backside. The former Tasmania coach Tim Coyle has always believed in him. So has Michael di Venuto, once the state's batting mentor and now part of the national setup. But it wasn't until Doolan was told by Ricky Ponting that he was good enough to play for Australia that he really believed in himself.

Like Ponting, Doolan is a classy No.3 from Launceston. Like Ponting, cricket runs in Doolan's family; Ponting's uncle Greg Campbell played four Tests, Doolan's father Bruce was a wicketkeeper-batsman for Tasmania. Like Ponting, Doolan is a cricket bat nerd, constantly picking up and inspecting the bats of his team-mates in the change rooms. There the comparisons must end, for, at 28, Doolan has only six first-class hundreds and an average of 37.92.

But the No.3 Test position filled by Ponting for a decade could be occupied later this week at the SCG by Doolan, after he was named in Australia's 14-man squad for the Ashes finale. It was last summer when Ponting spent much of the season playing for Tasmania that Doolan really started to develop, and two century partnerships with Ponting were high points in his season, along with his unbeaten 161 for Australia A against the touring South Africans.

"He led by example. He didn't necessarily tell me how I had to go about it," Doolan said of Ponting after being called up for the Sydney Test. "He just tried to instill the belief in me and made sure I believed I was a good player and that I could do it and not be satisfied with anything I'd done. If you got a hundred, to make sure the next time you batted you were looking to get a hundred again.

"There's a difference between belonging and wanting to dominate and contribute every game. I've probably felt I belonged at the level for a while but probably had been happy just belonging and not wanting to be one of the best players in the competition. That's one of the differences for me, that I actually, after having chats with Ricky, wanted to play for Australia.

"It hadn't really been a goal or an ambition of mine … an ambition it was, but I hadn't set goals in place to play for Australia. And that's the difference, once he spoke to me and told me he thought I was good enough to do it, that's what I wanted to do."

Doolan finished the summer with 876 first-class runs at 51.52 and was mentioned by national selector John Inverarity as one of four players considered to replace the newly retired Ponting for the home series against Sri Lanka, along with Phillip Hughes, Rob Quiney and Usman Khawaja. The role went to Hughes, and Khawaja has since then had opportunities and failed to grasp them, and now it could be Doolan's turn.

"He's a fine young batsman Alex Doolan who over the last year and a half has really started to believe that he is a good player," di Venuto, who has seen plenty of Doolan as Tasmania's batting coach and now the national batting coach, said. "He benefitted greatly last year from having Ricky Ponting around at Tasmania quite a bit and learnt a lot from just being up the other end from him.

"He was involved in quite a few partnerships with Ricky throughout the year. He actually matched it with him a few times and that's where he really got his belief that he is actually a very good player. He has had another good start to the season with Tasmania. He scored a very impressive hundred in a run chase against NSW. Michael Clarke was playing in that game and he said it was an outstanding innings. He deserves his spot."

However, Doolan's overall output has been down this year compared to last summer, and he has 432 first-class runs this season at 38.36. He sits 17th on the Sheffield Shield run tally this summer, well behind Hughes, who must have been a strong contender to come in for the Sydney Test if Shane Watson's groin problem rules him out.

One of Doolan's greatest challenges has been to ensure the Twenty20 format does not affect his red-ball form; a fortnight ago he conceded that had been the case last summer when he played for the Melbourne Renegades. Doolan said he would play for the Renegades against the Brisbane Heat in Melbourne on Monday night before joining the Test squad in Sydney, and he hoped he would be able to adjust back to long-form cricket.

"You've got to keep yourself prepared and ready, as much as you can," Doolan said. "It's a long [Ashes] series and you never know with form slumps or injuries. But my focus because we've had such a hectic start to the Big Bash with the Renegades, basically travel, play, train, travel, play, train, it's been hard to focus on the Test cricket but it's always in the back of your mind, I think."

Doolan's chances of playing in Sydney will most likely rest on Watson's ability to bowl after picking up a groin injury on the first day of the Melbourne Test. Watson batted and made a valuable contribution in Australia's victory but appeared hampered by his groin problem while bowling and fielding in the second innings.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Scott on January 1, 2014, 14:32 GMT

    @ShutTheGate, how about his first innings at #3 against Eng at the oval coming in at 1-6 and smashing 176? No pressure as the series was gone?? Ask Cook and co right now if there's no pressure on their side? At #3 Watson has scored 697 runs from 17 innings with 2 tons and 4 50s @ 44. As opener he's scored 2049 from 52 @ 41. Serioulsy, how is it that this guy is the bloke we're stating isn't good enough at the top order? Warner himself only averages 42 as an opener, and think about how great his series has been this time around. I think there's a load of people out there who harp on about Watson and really haven't got a clue. His last 2 years haven't been fruitful as Arthur was messing with him. He gave the opening role to Cowan and had Watson up and down the order like a yo-yo. S Watson, like it or not, is a top order bat! SW @#6 avg 27, S Watson @ #5 avg, from 7-11, avg 14.5. Nah, let's put him down the order! Great call...

  • Scott on January 1, 2014, 14:13 GMT

    @Chris_P, I like the look of Doolan, he looks a class bat. All I'm trying to say is that everyone is very quick to trash on Watson for his lack of runs, yet he's doing better at test level than this guy is at state level! As for Doolan, he was touted as the guy in line prior to this series. If he was really intent on getting into this side, he'd not be averaging 30 odd this season and have an average like Ferguson's at 72 and not only be tapping at the door, he'd have ripped the thing apart and walked straight in. IMO, he had a huge chance to shine and failed.

  • dinesh on December 31, 2013, 8:09 GMT

    dont understand why evry1 against he technically sound? if yes then he shld be picked ahead of hughes..he has been given a quite a few chances and flopped, so dont u guys think doolan shld be atleast given a chance..he shld had been selected in 3rd test itself, so he would had got 2 tests to present his case at no3, atlest give him a test to see how he goes, 1st clas avg really doent matter that much as hughes has already proved failin repeatedly, he can come in at rogers place, no fault of his but rogers reflexes have already slowed down still he's fighting and scorin runs which is awesome but i dont think it 'll be more than year or two also if doolan fails hughes can be selected but right now its better to see how doolan goes with it. drop bailey he is useless in test and bring watson there @Waymore Lonesome it is just you, warner can never be no3 so is watson, no3 shld be some1 who can grind it out and not give his wicket

  • disco on December 31, 2013, 6:36 GMT

    South Africa could be a good venue to reintroduce Hughes, especially with MJ back, lots of good memories for both of them.

  • James on December 31, 2013, 3:15 GMT

    Hughes will be back, but it is best for him and the team that he gets over his failures over a few seasons and comeback stronger mentally. Doolan might be a good bet for now. If Watto is injured and he plays, Bailey will be under the pump.

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2013, 2:14 GMT

    The Argus review made it very clear that if you are not performing (as opposed to out of form), you will get dropped. If you are in form, you will play. The Hughes dilemma is this: against pace attacks or on fast tracks, he should play for Oz. If it is on a dusty turner, perhaps not. He should undoubtedly be in the squad for SAF. And in the absence of Swann, should probably be playing in Sydney ahead of Doolan. That said, good luck to Doolan if he plays.

  • geoff on December 31, 2013, 2:12 GMT

    Doolan is 3 years older than Hughes and currently averages 20 less than Hughes in Shield cricket. So much for the future. Hughes is a New South Welshman and grew up playing on the SCG, Doolan may have played there on half a dozen occasions, never with much success. I had thought this sort of selection bull.... was a thing of the past, but I'm obviously wrong. If a double and two tons in 5 matches doesn't earn selection as a reserve, Bradman himself wouldn't make this team with the selectors we have.

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2013, 2:05 GMT

    @Shaggy076 - you might want to look up the meaning of the word 'dearth'. It means the opposite of the way you have used it.

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2013, 1:23 GMT

    It's like the selectors make up their minds in the middle of the year and then don't even pay any attention at all to first class results. And it's results that matter, I was a big supporter of Doolan's attempt to get in the side, but results are what matters and he's fallen away. Now he gets picked?

    Does anyone else think Warner would be an ideal #3 or is it just me?

    Rogers Hughes Warner Clarke Smith Haddin Watson Johnson Faulkner Siddle O'Keefe

  • Peter on December 30, 2013, 22:21 GMT

    @ScottStevo. I won't enter the Watto discussion as that has been done already but Doolan, last season, was the leading batsman coming into the BBL yet wasn't considered for the Indian tour (which was full of undeserving tourists IMHO). He actually has a pretty solid technique when compared to many others, but agree that others are putting the performances on the board this season. If you go on conssitent form over a few seasons, then Hughes is deserving of a spot, his test average, BTW, is far superior to Hayden's when he was discarded after the 2nd time although he was pumping out huge volume of runs in the Shield, & Hayden came back to deliver pretty well. I think it's all moot as I expect the same XI to take the field but if not, I wish the replacements all the best.

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