Australian batting coach Michael Di Venuto has backed Alex Doolan to slot in well at No.3 if he receives a Sydney Test call-up.
National selectors have brought the 28-year-old into the squad as cover for all-rounder Shane Watson, who injured his groin on day one of the Boxing Day Test.
The line-up for Sydney has also been thrown into doubt by the injury cloud over fast bowler Ryan Harris, who has knee soreness and a blister from bowling in new boots in Melbourne. His most likely replacement would be quick Nathan Coulter-Nile.
In addition, coach Darren Lehmann wants five bowlers at his disposal and has hinted that he will not play Watson as a batsman only, opening the door for one-Test all-rounder James Faulkner.
Bowling coach Craig McDermott, however, has said that he expects Watson to be fit.
There are big wraps on Doolan – it appears a matter of when, not if, he will play Test cricket. If Doolan comes into the team this week, Di Venuto is confident his fellow Tasmanian will handle the pressure well.
“He’s not a young player – Alex has been around for a while and played a fair bit of cricket for Tasmania, so he’s experienced,” Di Venuto said. “If he gets his opportunity, it will be at the top of the order, at No.3. I’m sure he will perform well. If an opportunity arises, he will be ready to go.”
Doolan has played for Australia A and shown strong form so far this season for Tasmania.
Di Venuto added that Doolan worked extensively with former Test captain Ricky Ponting last year on and off the field when they were Tasmanian teammates.
Doolan will play in the Big Bash League on Monday night for the Melbourne Renegades and then go to Sydney to join the national squad.
He was stunned on Sunday when he received a call from chairman of selectors John Inverarity. “I didn’t quite know what to expect when I saw John Inverarity’s number pop up on my phone,” he said.
“I was wondering what I’d done wrong. It’s a real shock and a real honour. It’s going to be exciting and something I will really cherish.”
Doolan also has the happy scenario where he joins an Australian team that is firing, rather than coming in to help rejuvenate the lineup.
“If it was going to be one or the other, this is the perfect opportunity,” he said. “The guys are on a high, they’ve all played very, very well. So it would be a nice fit for me to go in on such a high.
“But in saying that, any time you get a chance to at least be called up for your nation, it’s a huge honour.”
Doolan said he would spend the week making sure he is ready to go if picked in the XI. “Whether this is the chance to play, I don’t know,” he said.
But McDermott has forecast no changes to the attack for Sydney. “As I keep saying, you don’t play Test cricket without getting sore,” McDermott said. “I fully expect we’ll have the same team – or the same bowling group – in Sydney. I’m very confident that will happen.”
McDermott confirmed that he included Watson as part of the bowling group.
Commenting on the all-rounder’s fitness, McDermott added: “Watto proved that yesterday – he ran between wickets pretty well. He’s not the fastest mover at the best of times. He got through, he bowled in the second innings as well. I don’t think there will be any drama with Watto.”
If Australia field the same lineup in Sydney, it would be only the fifth time that the same XI has played every match of a five-Test series.
Australia are also on track to achieve a rare Ashes whitewash.
“Obviously it’s pretty special times, 4-0 with one to go,” McDermott said. “I’m looking forward to a 5-0, from my side of it. It’s a great achievement from the side and all the staff.”
McDermott labelled the Australian attack the best in the world before Boxing Day and the bowlers turned the fourth Test around for Australia.
England had the initiative for the first time in the series after day two, but Australia’s bowlers restricted them to just 179 on day three.
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon took 5-50 and reached his 100-Test milestone as England collapsed at the end of the second innings with 5-6.
Left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson was named man of the match for the third time in this series.
“All five of them have bowled very well,” McDermott said. “Watto has chipped in and Nathan Lyon has done unbelievably well. We’ve been in a couple of little … holes here and there, but good sides (work) through that.
“Certainly the last Test match turnaround from where we finished in the first innings batting-wise, just proves we have a really good side – a great side in the making.”