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Heazlett selection raises eyebrows

Sam Heazlett in action on debut Getty Images

Six months ago, Sam Heazlett was yet to make his one-day debut. Indeed, he is still yet to make his one-day debut for Queensland, having missed this summer's Matador Cup due to injury. But in Auckland on Monday, Heazlett leap-frogged state cricket to become the 220th ODI cricketer to represent Australia, a late addition to the XI after stand-in captain Matthew Wade was ruled out due to a back injury.

Heazlett struggled to have any impact against New Zealand, scoring 4 before he was caught behind off the bowling of Lockie Ferguson. His chances of playing again in the second ODI on Thursday will likely depend on whether Wade is passed fit. But for the time being, he finds himself in the unusual situation of having playing List A cricket only for Australia and for the National Performance Squad in a winter A series last year.

It was that series that won Heazlett his surprise national call-up. On his List A debut in Townsville in August, he struck 101 off 87 balls against South Africa A, and he followed up later in the series with 60 against India A and 73 against South Africa A. Since then, Heazlett's only innings of note were a couple of brisk BBL contributions for the Brisbane Heat, and two Sheffield Shield fifties.

Heazlett's ODI call-up was thus one of the most glaring examples of Australian fast-tracking in recent times, although other inclusions this summer - fast bowler Billy Stanlake was also rushed into the ODI team with only four List A games to his name, and none this summer - have also raised eyebrows. Heazlett is studying to be a physiotherapist, but his selection has rubbed a few people the wrong way.

"When his name got read out, it was a bit like, you need to go to the Cricinfo site and have a quick look around to work out who he was," former Australia fast bowler Stuart Clark said on the Big Sports Breakfast radio show on Tuesday. "I don't know, they've obviously seen some potential in this guy ... the next thing you know he's in the one-day international team.

"I don't know how you come up with that selection. Personally I don't like that sort of selection. You've got a lot of guys running around playing first-class cricket and you go, 'Hang on, why are they not getting an opportunity?' But the selectors have obviously seen someone and thought, 'Well this guy's a player of the future, let's get him into the series'. But I'm a bit uncomfortable with that."

Heazlett, 21, was a late inclusion in Australia's Chappell-Hadlee squad after Steven Smith was ruled out due to injury. He was picked ahead of prolific Matador Cup run-scorers from this summer, including Cameron White (457 runs at 76.16), Moises Henriques (414 at 69.00), Daniel Hughes (386 at 64.33) and Player of the Tournament Marnus Labuschagne (271 at 45.16).

Although Heazlett was told on the day before the Auckland ODI that he would not be in the side, things changed when Wade was ruled out on the morning of the match. Heazlett said coach Darren Lehmann had told him to play his natural game.

"I was a little bit nervous but no more than any other cricket game. I'm usually pretty nervous before any cricket game," Heazlett said. "Darren had a chat and just said bat the way you have been, back yourself. It's good to have that backing from the captain and the coach.

"It was a bit annoying not to score a few more with the bat, but that's the way it goes in cricket. Hopefully next time I can take the opportunity and contribute to a win for the team. We'll see what happens for the rest of the series. If I get another go, then great. But we'll see if Wadey comes back, what happens, and take it from there."