In the recently concluded Chappell-Hadlee ODI series in New Zealand, the Australian selection panel made one particularly bemusing and controversial selection in their touring party – that of young Queenslander Sam Heazlett.
Now, most Australian cricket fans would be familiar with Heazlett’s work for the Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League, where he has shown promising signs without being a dominant force just yet. However, fans won’t remember him from the 2016 edition of the Matador Cup one-day tournament – because he didn’t play. Heazlett has in fact never represented his state in a 50-over match, yet was selected for an ODI series on the basis of impressive form during the winter for the National Performance Squad.
As expected, Heazlett struggled, scoring only four runs in his solitary international appearance across the Tasman.
Solid knock from Michael Klinger, but he’s no Sam Heazlett #BBLFinal
— David Lindsay (@davelindsay77) January 28, 2017
An Australian ODI side captained by Aaron Finch and featuring Sam Heazlett. What a time to be alive.
— Daniel Cherny 📰 (@DanielCherny) January 29, 2017
Heazlett’s selection sparked criticism from the likes of Cameron White and Mitchell Johnson, which even led to a minor media spat between White and interim Chairman of Selectors Trevor Hohns.
The selection of Heazlett, while confusing, can be attributed in part of the Australian selectors’ turn towards youth in the wake of the Test series debacle against South Africa and the humiliation of Hobart. Since Hobart, Australia has introduced younger players such as Peter Handscomb and Mathew Renshaw into the Test side, and effectively seen to the end of the Test careers of Adam Voges and Callum Ferguson. The 32-year-old Ferguson only played one Test match before being punted.
After waiting for years, Callum Ferguson says he expects to be dropped after tonight’s 1st and only date. pic.twitter.com/cCbT84GQhk
— Dennis Cook CBE (@DennisCricket_) January 23, 2017
The decision to promote youth can be linked to Greg Chappell’s current role as an interim selector, with the former Test captain and cricket legend being known to prefer younger players – although this has not always been to the benefit of the sides he has been involved in.
Chappell had an acrimonious two-year stint as head coach of the Indian national team, where he also attempted to implement a youth policy. Chappell’s disastrous reign began in May 2005 and culminated in India’s shock first-round exit from the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. During his short time in charge, Chappell managed to alienate many of his senior players, including the likes of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar.
Chappell infamously fell out with former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly as well, as he tried to push for younger players to take the places of the ageing Indian batting stars. Tendulkar, Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman showed in the post-Chappell era that they still had plenty of runs left in them.
Since returning to Australia, Chappell has served as a national selector in 2010 and 2011 before being sacked, as well as the National Talent Manager, a role which includes him overseeing young players at junior state carnivals and in the National Performance Squad. It is through these Cricket Australia pathways where the likes of Sam Heazlett and Hilton Cartwright have risen to fill positions in the national side.
Greg Chappell strikes again. Total farce. Throws achievements of Cam White, Ferg, Doolan, Hughes, Voges… and what about Cartwright? Farce. pic.twitter.com/tfaV5BK8Xx
— Theo Doropoulos (@TheoDrop) January 27, 2017
While Heazlett, Cartwright and others who are being fast-tracked through these pathways may prove to be future stars of Australian cricket, international cricket is not the place to blood young talented players. Domestic cricket is.
The selection of someone like Heazlett, based on performances for the NPS in a quadrangular ‘A’ series sends the wrong message to consistent performers in domestic cricket – the Cameron Whites and Callum Fergusons out there – that they are not in with a chance of earning a spot in the Australian team.
This selection method will only have a negative long-term effect on Australian cricket as Sheffield Shield and Matador Cup performances cease to be relevant and those competitions’ importance takes a backseat to the likes of under-19 state carnivals, NPS games and even the Big Bash League.
NSP member Greg Chappell to George Bailey and Cameron White: YOU’RE FIRED!!
And exactly how long is “interim”?https://t.co/nydrERB1eU
— Brett Geeves (@brettygeevz) January 30, 2017
Chappell, Hohns and the rest of the brains trust at Cricket Australia need to ensure they reward first-class and one-day domestic form when picking squads for Australia, otherwise they run the risk of seeing the national side add to their poor 0-2 result in New Zealand because the players wearing the green and gold are not up to scratch.
Promoting younger players is fine, provided it is done on the back of that player showing good form in domestic cricket. This will guarantee that only the best players represent Australia and the national team remains a force.