Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Doggett's long road back brings instant joy
From the cusp of a Test debut to two years of debilitating back injuries, the Bulls quick has experienced professional cricket's rollercoaster
Andrew Ramsey at ACH Group Stadium, Glenelg
10 November 2020, 03:29 PM AEST
It was the feeling Brendan Doggett feared he might never again experience.
The short-pitched delivery that climbed barely waist-high on South Australia opener Henry Hunt is not one the Queensland quick will include on his career highlights reel, but it yielded a vignette that Doggett had replayed over and over in his mind for the past couple of years.
In toeing the ball high to mid-wicket where Jack Wildermuth completed a neat running catch, Hunt handed Doggett his first Marsh Sheffield Shield wicket in two years, give or take a day or five.
And given that previous success came less than a month after Doggett had returned from the UAE where he was on the cusp of a Test debut against Pakistan, the significance of yesterday's occasion to the 26-year-old is difficult to overstate.
When Doggett was named as one of five uncapped players in that 15-man Test squad (missing regular quicks Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood) it crowned a scarcely believable ascent from club cricket in Toowoomba to the brink of a Baggy Green cap.
But since then, Doggett has descended the steep downside of professional sport's rollercoaster, as a quadriceps injury and then the emergence of a serious back problem sent the hard-working fast bowler repeatedly to the sidelines.
His comeback to top-level cricket last summer brought eight KFC BBL games for Sydney Thunder (excluding the competition semi-final) and one Shield appearance – against Victoria at the Gabba – which he finished with 0-124 from 30 overs.
Further issues with his back meant Doggett spent the recent off-season working with medical experts and bio-mechanists to tweak his action, and he expected to spend the first phase of the Shield summer playing Premier Cricket in Brisbane before pushing for a first-class recall.
However, a side strain to fellow Bulls fast bowler Blake Edwards saw Doggett board a plane to Adelaide last week and – to his surprise and barely concealed excitement – he was included in the starting XI for the SA game just days later.
"We've got a lot of quicks, so I thought I was going to be sitting on the pine, but they threw me straight into the game which I'm thankful for," Doggett told cricket.com.au last night.
"I went to the UAE in the Test squad (in 2018) and I've played three first-class games since then.
"You sort of reach the peak of your career and then stuff doesn't really go your way, and it was just blow after blow there for a few seasons.
"It has been pretty tough riding the highs and lows.
"My back hasn't been able to cope with the stresses of bowling for the last couple of years, so it's just good to be back around the squad and being able to play."
It was an especially poignant return given the current round of Shield matches coincides with NAIDOC Week nationwide.
And as a proud descendant of the Worimi people, whose traditional homeland was the coastal region around Port Stephens (175km north of Sydney), Doggett was honoured to be part of the Barefoot Circle formed by both teams before play began at Glenelg last Sunday.
"I always love acknowledging my culture," he said.
"I enjoy talking to the boys about it and it's great that Cricket Australia is on board with NAIDOC Week and they're recognising and celebrating Indigenous culture. It's brilliant."
Not only was Doggett thrown into the first-class fray ahead of young Queensland quick Xavier Bartlett who had impressed in the opening Shield round against Tasmania, he was tossed the ball just seven overs into SA's first innings at Glenelg Oval.
Six deliveries later, he had Hunt's wicket and was swamped (in socially distanced fashion) by delighted teammates who were as thrilled for his long-awaited breakthrough as the man himself was relieved.
"Thoughts come into your head that you're probably never going to play for Queensland again, especially with our fast-bowling stocks at the moment," Doggett admitted.
"So to get that wicket, and to get it out of the way in my first over made me feel nice and relaxed, and then I could get on with it."
Should Doggett have needed additional confirmation of how suddenly cricket fortune can turn, it came with the first delivery of his second spell yesterday.
A self-described "bit of a stinky ball", it pitched short and wide of SA batter Will Bosisto's off-stump and was slapped chest-high to Mitchell Swepson at point to hand Doggett a second wicket.
His third came two deliveries later as the right-armer, who was clocked at bowling speeds around 145kph before he began his battle with injuries, found reverse swing and enticed Redbacks keeper Harry Nielsen to edge a catch behind.
Then, remarkably, he reprised his effort from a day earlier when he snared the first wicket to fall in SA's second innings today, with the third delivery of his opening over clattering into opener Conor McInerney's stumps.
Doggett is not sure if he'll be able to rediscover the sorts of speeds he was showing when he came to the attention of national selectors, a journey that ostensibly began when he took 5-101 in Tasmania's first innings of Queensland's 2017-18 Shield final win.
But given the trials he's endured simply to get back on the park, he's not about to settle into a comfortable late-career bowling military medium-pace.
"Honestly, we've almost changed everything," Doggett said of the rehabilitation program that has altered his action as well as his fitness and recovery regimens.
"It's been trial and error, some things worked and some didn't but really, your body just has to grow and get stronger with the more you bowl.
"With some of those changes, I don't know if I'll be able to get back to being as fast as I was.
"But I'm gonna try, and we'll see what happens.
"I've just got to trust my body that it will hold up and get me through a game of first-class cricket and go from there.
"If you're a fast bowler you're always going to have some sort of niggle and some soreness in your back.
"I suppose it's recognising what's good pain and what's bad pain, but I'm trying to just keep that in the back of my mind for now."