'Astounding': Cricket greats question how Sam Heazlett was selected in Australia's ODI side

By James Matthey

Sam Heazlett is yet to play a limited overs contest for Queensland, but was deemed one of the 11 best available players in the country yesterday. Photo / Getty Images
Sam Heazlett is yet to play a limited overs contest for Queensland, but was deemed one of the 11 best available players in the country yesterday. Photo / Getty Images

In the wake of Australia's dramatic loss to New Zealand in the first ODI at Eden Park on Monday, cricket fans were probably wondering: "Who is Marcus Stoinis?"

It's a fair question for those less in tune with Australian cricket's domestic scene, and plenty would have wanted to know the answer. After all, the 27-year-old Victorian all-rounder smoked 146 not out from 117 balls in just his second one-day international to almost lead his country to a memorable win.

But while Stoinis' name is now known, mystery still surrounds another Aussie rookie. Sam Heazlett (pronounced "Hazlett") made his international debut on Monday, before he'd even made his state debut in the 50-over format.

Australian batsman Marcus Stoinis celebrates his century. Photo / www.photosport.co.nz
Australian batsman Marcus Stoinis celebrates his century. Photo / www.photosport.co.nz

That's right, the 21-year-old is yet to play a limited overs contest for Queensland, but was somehow deemed one of the 11 best available players in the country yesterday. Batting at number six, the youngster scored just four before he was caught behind.

Earlier in the summer, Steve Smith joked he needed someone to point Matt Renshaw out to him when the Queenslander turned up to Australian training for the first time. We're guessing he might have had the same request for Heazlett if he wasn't at home recovering from an ankle injury.

The fact Heazlett was picked without having played a List A game for his state worried former Australian legends Stuart Clark and Michael Slater, who were disappointed someone with no record whatsoever to speak of at domestic level could get a crack on the biggest stage.

"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 find out who he was," Clark said on Big Sports Breakfast 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 aren't they 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'. I'm a bit uncomfortable with that."

Slater was more forthright, using Peter Handscomb's elevation to the ODI side despite not having scored a century in more than 50 matches to criticise selectors for steering clear of proven performers.

"It's the basis for selection that is astounding," Slater said. "Like with Peter Handscomb, his domestic one-day record isn't great, but his Test runs get him in there."

Players like Cameron White, Callum Ferguson, Moises Henriques and recent Test debutant Hilton Cartwright were all snubbed in favour of Heazlett, leading to criticism of his selection before the first game.

"Where is Cameron White as a replacement batsmen? Form and class, domestic player of the year," Victorian coach and former Aussie all-rounder Andrew McDonald said.

It's a valid question. White has been the Matador One-Day Cup's player of the year two seasons running and has scored more than 2000 one-day international runs. But at 33, it appears his time has passed, regardless of the numbers he racks up for Victoria.

"I'm just a little worried to be honest, on the importance the selectors are putting on domestic cricket," White told RSN 927 Breakfast radio.

"For years, the strength of the Australian game has been the domestic game. I'm just not sure that there has been much importance put on that and it worries me for the future of Australian cricket and the strength of Australian cricket."

The former Victorian skipper lambasted the importance being placed on the Big Bash, saying using the domestic T20 competition as a pathway to international cricket was all wrong.

"We've seen with selection over the last period of time that the Big Bash seems to be the be-all and end-all," White said. "You can get picked to play for Australian in any format out of the Big Bash, really. It doesn't make a lot of sense.

"The worry for me is that if I'm a young player sitting at home, I'm thinking I'm not going to worry about state cricket, I'm just going to put all my energy into the Big Bash," he said.

"Whatever I do, I'm just going to try and get a Big Bash contract somewhere because I know that's a great opportunity to picked for Australia."

White also criticised the Australian selectors for blooding players in the international arena at a young age so they can develop, when it fact the development stage of any cricketer's career should take pace in the state system.

"I grew up watching and dreaming of playing for Australia and thinking how hard is it going to be to get a game for Australia and earn the absolute right? Now it sort of seems like in some terms and some stages it is a development team. For me, playing for Australia isn't about giving you a chance to develop. Domestic cricket is where that happens and at Futures League."

Ferguson too did everything right in his time with Australia before a knee injury cruelly cut short his ODI career, in which he averages more than 41 from 30 matches. After being ruthlessly dropped after a disappointing Test debut against South Africa in Hobart, he'll be worried the selectors have moved on from him for good.

While yet to play a one-dayer for Queensland, Heazlett has represented the National Performance Squad (NPS) and caught selectors' attention when he hit 101 against South Africa A in his List A debut last August. He hit two more half centuries in that triangular series - 73 against the South Africans and 60 against India.

So unknown was Heazlett that when now-Australian teammate Glenn Maxwell was commentating during his opening-game century, the all-rounder continually mispronounced his name as "Heezlett".

He has limited experience in the coloured pyjamas, and only slightly more in the whites. Heazlett has played 13 first-class matches, scoring 821 runs at an average of 34.2 with one hundred and seven fifties.

His only ton - 129 batting at first drop - came on debut against Tasmania in late 2015 facing an international-quality attack featuring Aussie Test players Jackson Bird, Ben Hilfenhaus and James Faulkner. So to state the bleeding obvious, Heazlett can definitely play.

But whether he's good enough to play the no. 1 ranked ODI bowler in the world Trent Boult and his partner in crime Tim Southee in foreign conditions is a matter up for debate.

Getting another gig in the series against New Zealand probably depends on how Matthew Wade recovers from a back injury that ruled him out of game one. But if Monday was Heazlett's only opportunity in the Shaky Isles, it might be a little while longer before the rest of Australia recognises the face that goes with the name.

- news.com.au

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