George Dockrell, the Ireland and Somerset left-arm spinner, has put behind him a frustrating 2011 and is keen to welcome in the new year with success against England in Dubai this month. The 19-year-old, in Dubai as part of the ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate (AM) XI to face England for a three-day match at the Global Cricket Academy, spoke to Cricketnext about his experience with County side Somerset, the challenge of playing first-class cricket, being on England's radar and what drew him to the game.
You've completed your first year with Somerset, though the injury (dislocated shoulder) you picked up during the World Cup hampered your success. How was the County experience?
It wasn't the most productive year because I didn't get a lot of playing time owing to the injury I picked up at the World Cup, but to be a part of a great club like Somerset and being part of the dressing room in another successful season was amazing.
I recovered later in the season and played one first-class game, five Clydesdale Bank 40 matches, and seven Twenty20 games. It was frustrating to not get more playing time in the County Championship, but to share the dressing room with such experienced players was an eye-opener and I feel richer for the experience. County cricket is competitive and really tests you, so I feel good to have been able to complete my first season with Somerset. Hopefully it gets better.
Do you feel settled at Somerset?
It's just been one season so there's a long way to go, but definitely I feel a part of the set-up. The players and coaching staff have been extremely welcoming. I was aware of Somerset’s interest a couple years ago, and the thought of playing County cricket was very exciting. Being so young and still in school, and getting an opportunity like that, its amazing. Unfortunately, the injury restricted my appearances this past season.
Any particular performance for Somerset that you cherish?
My Clydesdale Bank 40 debut was special. I took 3 for 27 in eight overs against Glamorgan to help Somerset win by three wickets at Cardiff. That game gave me a lot of satisfaction.
Obviously the injury at the World Cup was unfortunate, but what was your experience of the tournament like?
It was fantastic. To go to the World Cup, especially out in the subcontinent, and play against top cricket teams was a big challenge and I think we as a team did well. The win over England was huge and really lifted us. I think we answered some of our critics with that win. We pushed India too. I don’t think we can be taken lightly.
That win over England was something …
It was huge. We were up against a top side and to beat them in that manner was very special. It is unforgettable. The way Kevin [O’Brien] batted was unbelievable. We came into the tournament without many fancying our chances and that win made people sit up and notice us.
What were the celebrations like?
Amazing. I don’t think we slept much that night. We had a good amount of support in the crowd in terms of family and friends and fans from back home, so that made the win even more memorable.
This match against England in Dubai gives you the chance to have an extended bowl against a Test-match batting order. Relishing the opportunity?
Definitely. To play against the No. 1 Test team is a big challenge. They're a top team with great players. Bowling long spells against them will be a challenge but that’s what I am looking forward to. The more you play the longer format of the game, the more chances you have to improve. It's a goal I have set myself; to improve in first-class cricket. England provide a big challenge.
In March, you'll be back in Dubai to play the World Twenty20 qualifiers. With Ireland having being elevated to a leading Associate nation, would you say the expectations are higher?
I think so. We've done well as a team. We won all four of our Intercontinental Cup one-day matches, which put us on course for the 2015 World Cup, and we ended on top of the four-day table with two wins. We’ve got a good record off late and people expect us to come out and dominate matches against other Associate teams.
What drew you to cricket? Your father, Derek, is a keen follower of the game …
Yes, my father was a big influence. He played at the school and club level and is a huge fan of the game. Cricket was always discussed at home. My mother too was and is very supportive. It was my parents who had the biggest impact on me. We are all cricket nuts.
You were a keen hockey player too …
Yes, I was. I love hockey still. It's a great game. I played at the school and provincial level, up to the Under-16 level. I trained with the U-16 squad and it was rewarding. But ultimately cricket was the sport I chose.
You've been a fan of Michael Clarke?
He's a great player and and I've watched closely the way he plays. I know I'm primarily a bowler so from that perspective it may be odd that I am drawn to a batsman. Comparitively, I guess you could say I am more like Daniel Vettori as a bowler. He's a big inspiration.
You missed bowling to the Australians because you had to give a biology exam. Any regrets?
Well, I did well in that exam so that was a good feeling. Studies are a priority too, especially being at this age. It wasn’t hard to decide that I needed to pursue a degree alongside playing cricket.
How hard is it to juggle academics with cricket?
Tough, but then you need that balance. Studies are more important than cricket. I am studying science at Trinity College in Dublin and working hard to get good grades.
If offered the opportunity, would you play for England?
My aim is to play Test cricket for Ireland. I don't know if that will happen. Where England is concerned, I know there is some interest but I am not thinking about that too much now. My focus is bowling well for Ireland and Somerset. I want to play more ODI cricket, but Test cricket is the dream. I can only continue to do well and see what the future holds.
How far do you think Ireland cricket is from competing at Test level?
I don't think anytime soon. At the international level, the fact that we lost to Bangladesh in the World Cup and at home to Pakistan, England and Scotland wasn't encouraging. But as an Associate team we have been doing well for the last few years and that shows that we can compete. Irish cricket needs more exposure. We need to play against more Test-match opposition. Our first-class structure has improved and the signs are encouraging. Of course playing County cricket helps, but to consistently play first-class cricket is what can take us forward. We need to be among the big boys.