Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
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New Zealand has already played a significant part in Hannah Darlington's cricket journey. Two years ago she toured with the Australia Under-19 squad and last season played for Otago in the Super Smash, her performances helping her secure a state contract with New South Wales.
Now it could be the scene of her international debut after being named in Australia's squad for the ODI and T20I tour next month. Darlington, who has been a star of the last two WBBL seasons with Sydney Thunder, is one of two uncapped players on the trip alongside Darcie Brown, the Adelaide Strikers and South Australia quick, who was her roommate on the U-19 tour.
Darlington was named the female young cricketer of the year earlier this month after a WBBL campaign with the Thunder that brought 19 at 13.68 and economy rate of 6.19 for the champions. That followed 16 wickets in the previous season, although after that she was overlooked for New South Wales Breakers which is how she found herself back in New Zealand.
She took 13 wickets for Otago, with an economy rate of 5.75, and on returning to Australia was selected by NSW then during the off-season earned a full contract. This summer she was named vice-captain, although the plan for her to potentially lead the side when Alyssa Healy departed on tour will now have to be shelved with her on the same flight.
"I'm pretty shocked at the moment, it hasn't sunk in yet and not sure when it will," she said. "To think I was struggling to get a run in the Thunder squad, couldn't get a contract with the NSW Breakers last year, it was a tough couple of months to bounce back. After putting in that hard work I can now sit back and think it was all worth it. Everyday I'm pinching myself that this is happening.
"[Otago] came up because I wasn't going to be in the Breakers squad so to be able to go across and get a bit of experience in New Zealand in another T20 competition, after the success I'd had in the Big Bash was a no-brainer. I wasn't even 18 and living by myself and traveling so probably one of the best experiences I've had."
When the call came from selector Shawn Flegler earlier this week, Darlington was in the middle of a bike session in the gym. After getting the good news she gave herself 15 minutes to take it all in and call her family before resuming training and trying not to let the news slip out.
"It was a really nice phone call, I've have had a lot to do with Flegs in the under-age pathway," she said. "I've had a few calls from him but wasn't sure if this would be the one that [says] you are a reserve or not selected, but to get the news I was in the squad was special."
Flegler has said that Darlington's selection is primarily with an eye on the T20s - the format where she has excelled - as Australia start to have one eye on the future following last year's T20 World Cup victory on home soil.
Darlington, who would be the third Indigenous female player for Australia if she debuted, is still learning the ropes in the 50-over game but believes her skills are transferable and is eager to soak up as much as she can from the senior bowlers.
"As a bowler you have a lot more time and think that's something I'm getting used to," she said. "I've had five games for the Breakers now and finding my way with that format. Finding myself comfortable with a bit of a middle-overs role and at the death which is similar to what I do in Big Bash. It's still quite fresh and probably something I can take away from this tour is learning off how those girls go about bowling in 50-over cricket
"It will be a massive experience allround, it's a dream come true to have them as team-mates. Weird to think a couple of years ago I was a kid watching the Australian team and hoping to even meet them one day, but to be playing alongside is a real dream."