JLT One-Day Cup 2018
Sub role a game changer for Doran
Being unexpectedly thrown into a Sheffield Shield match unlocked something for Jake Doran that has paid big dividends
Andrew Ramsey Senior Writer
30 July 2018, 08:26 PM AEST
Jake Doran's batting epiphany hit with all the unexpected resonance of a southpaw sparring partner's right cross.
In truth, that blow was not landed on him but rather flush on the front badge of his Tasmania teammate Jordan Silk's protective helmet as the opener belatedly tried to avoid a pinpoint bouncer from ex-Test quick, Peter Siddle.
Doran was among the first to check on Silk's wellbeing, having sprinted from the MCG boundary where he was serving as the Tigers' 13th man in that Sheffield Shield match last November; in itself, a serendipitous happening.
He had entered last summer as Silk's opening partner but, following a stoic half-century in Tasmania's heavy first-round loss to Western Australia, scores of 4, 0 and 0 had him out of the starting XI and potentially on a plane back to Hobart prior to the game against titleholders, Victoria.
But it was decided that the left-hander, due to turn 21 in three weeks, might be better served remaining with the senior squad given it was a mid-week Shield match and he faced no options for remedial game time if he returned home.
Despite Silk remaining on his feet and continuing his almost 90-minute innings – he even took the field when Victoria subsequently batted, and claimed a smart catch – he was diagnosed with delayed concussion shortly before Tasmania returned to the crease, and ruled out of the match.
With 12th man Beau's Webster's skills set more off-spin bowling than opening bat, Doran was told he would be filling in at the top of the order and, in the process, claiming a place in cricket history (and at sports trivia nights from here on) as the first-class game's first concussion substitute.
For Doran, however, his recall to top-flight competition in such unlikely circumstances would prove far more instructive than simply becoming a dot point amid cricket's limitless statistical quirkery.
Forced into combat against an international-standard attack studded with Siddle, Chris Tremain, Scott Boland and Fawad Ahmed and with barely a net session in the best part of a week, Doran didn't even have time in which to fret as he strapped on his gear and headed to the middle.
And, in doing so, uncovered a basic truth about batting.
"The lesson I learned was how much I worked myself up before a game," Doran told cricket.com.au ahead of his final appearance in Northern Territory's Strike League competition last weekend.
"I think about games a lot, and the biggest learning (from the Victoria match) for the rest of the year was that it's just another game, that you're going out there to play.
"I went into that game without facing any warm-up balls.
"I went in without essentially warming up, and then five minutes later was opening the batting for my Shield team.
"So it taught me a good lesson that in the weeks beforehand – in the months beforehand – that's when all the work is done.
"As a young guy, you do put a lot of pressure on yourself to score runs but it's a great lesson that I think I learned for the future.
"At the end of the day it's just focusing on a red cricket ball and trying to score runs, where beforehand I was probably playing the game before it had even happened."
Doran knows a bit about the burden of expectation.
He might have only just reached what was celebrated as 'adulthood' back in the day, but he's been touted as a future international since he was at the sports-focused Hills High School in western Sydney where his older brother Luke (ex-New South Wales and Sydney Sixers) also attended.
No lesser judge than former Australia captain Greg Chappell likened Jake – then aged 16 – to another Test-capped left-hander, Michael Hussey.
That was when the young keeper-batsman was named in a Cricket Australia XI to tackle England's touring Test outfit in a two-day match at Alice Springs, and after Doran had usurped Doug Walters as the youngest player to represent New South Wales, albeit in a second XI encounter.
And before he topped Australia's batting aggregate (aged 17) at the 2014 under-19 World Cup in the UAE, and then announced his move to Tasmania in search of a first-class opportunity.
Until his impromptu mid-match appearance at the MCG last November, he had found that opportunity tough to grasp.
In three and a bit Shield seasons, he had averaged just above 21 with a top score of 68, batting mainly in the lower middle-order and acting as auxiliary keeper when Matthew Wade was in Australia colours and current Test skipper Tim Paine injured or overlooked.
A week after he made 36 in more than three hours with no prep or angst at the MCG, he scored his first Shield century in an almost six-hour stint against South Australia, and finished the Shield summer as Tasmania's most successful run scorer.
With his 756 at 44.47 the fifth-best return of the 2017-18 competition behind Queensland's Matthew Renshaw and Marnus Labuschagne, and South Australia pair Callum Ferguson and Jake Weatherald.
"It was a bit of a weight off the shoulders, you could say," Doran noted of his breakthrough hundred that uncorked a break-out summer.
"You have that in the back of your mind trying to score your first hundred.
"After that, it allowed me to relax a lot more and just go out there and play the game as it is.
"Coming through the junior ranks and then the lower (levels) of the senior ranks and scoring runs, I probably didn't having the same progression (at senior level) as I did through the juniors.
"Looking back (to last season), I think that was the way I wanted to play my game but I hadn't been doing that and I wasn't scoring the runs that I would like to.
"I think every player goes through that.
"You tend to change a lot when you're coming through the ranks – you change your technique, or you change the way you play, and I think last year was good just to be consistent with what I was doing."
Although still squarely in the developmental stage of his sporting journey, this was not Doran's first encounter with enlightenment.
Understandably a little daunted by confronting the ilk of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow just days before turning 17, he walked away from that Alice Springs tour game ruing his dismissal by England's Test off-spinner Graeme Swann and hellbent on learning to execute the sweep shot.
An ambition he continues to work on at training sessions, in and out of season.
And in consultation with Tasmania's head coach Adam Griffith and batting guru Jeff Vaughan, Doran decided last summer he would shelve all plans to play white ball cricket and narrow his focus to securing a red-ball berth instead.
A ploy that he's hopeful brings a more resilient, flexible game plan as he returns to all formats in the coming season, and means he adds to the 10 domestic one-day games and four appearances in the KFC Big Bash League that he's managed across almost four years.
If his results in the Strike League provide a meaningful guide, that looms as another strategic master stroke.
Doran finished the month-long Darwin tournament, a hybrid of T20 and 50-over games, atop the batting averages with 312 runs from five innings at 104 per outing.
And finished his stint with a personal best 168 not out from 126 balls faced (with 14 boundaries and six sixes) for Northern Tide against the competition's eventual runners-up, Desert Blaze last Saturday.
Doran, who was contracted to Sydney Thunder prior to his self-imposed limited-overs sabbatical, will now wait to learn if his spectacular rebirth as a white-ball player will draw sufficient interest to land him a BBL contract.
"Big Bash is definitely on the radar this year," he said as he prepared to depart Darwin's dry season warmth for late winter in Hobart.
"I'm looking to expand into white-ball cricket, and it's been awesome with the Strike League happening.
"It will be a different experience for me because last year I said no to white ball cricket to focus on the red-ball stuff, so that's why this is perfect.
"To come up here and expand my game."