ALEX Doolan admitted it is hard to keep his feet on the ground when he hears Ricky Ponting talking up his Test prospects.
The former NTCA players spent much of last season's victorious Sheffield Shield campaign batting together and as Doolan prepares for the start of Tasmania's defence tomorrow, Ponting has been hinting at a possible Ashes call-up.
``There's every opportunity,'' the former Test captain told Fox Sports last week. ``I played a lot with Doolan last year and he's a class player. He elevated his game to a new level.''
Doolan said he hadn't see the interview, but was flattered.
``To have the best player ever say nice things about you is a great honour,'' he told The Examiner.
``I think every first-class cricketer has got the Ashes in the back of their mind especially with the batting line-up not settled yet.
``But if you think too far ahead you're a shot duck and I'm just looking to start the Shield campaign well and if anything eventuates from that then great.
``I guess having the advantage of playing for Australia A might have me a foot closer than some others so maybe if I get a good start to the year and get some runs, who knows?''
Doolan, who turns 28 next month, said he had not been able to talk to Ponting lately, but was enjoying reading his autobiography.
``At the moment all the info I'm getting is from his book. He's a hard man to get hold of.''
Since returning from the Australia A tour to South Africa, the former Launceston batsman was Tasmania's leading run-scorer in the Ryobi Cup, but while he made starts in all six innings, he failed to pass 68 and averaged 34.50.
He and the Tigers returned to New South Wales yesterday to begin their Shield defence against the Blues at Blacktown, the venue for their final Ryobi Cup fixture.
Having been named vice-captain to Tim Paine, Doolan said he was enjoying added responsibility.
``I was vice-captain to Aaron Finch for Australia A and towards the end of the Ryobi Cup but this will be the first time in first-class cricket.
``With so many experienced guys away a number of us were putting our hands up and I'm looking forward to it but our team pretty much looks after itself.
``It was a great learning curve playing with Australia A and learning how to play different styles of cricket. I loved it and hope to bring it back into this season.''
Doolan said he would love to be involved in the next Australia A match, against England at Bellerive from November 6, but the silver lining of missing out would be playing for Tasmania in Queensland.