‘It’s a different level’: Aussie sensation stuns on debut

Australia v West Indies - Men's ODI Series: Game 1
Xavier Bartlett celebrates one of his four wickets at the MCG. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

West Indian captain Shai Hope gave a blunt “no” when asked if he knew anything about Xavier Bartlett after the Queensland quick left an almighty impression on the tourists and Australian cricket with the second best ODI bowling debut of all-time for his country.

Bartlett, who had three days to think about his international ascension having being told on Tuesday he’d be playing at the MCG, put aside first-game nerves, which included hoping his first ball wasn’t “five wides” to take a third-ball wicket and 4-17 in a big Australian win.

Opening the bowling wasn’t so much the issue, having done it with great success in the BBL for the Brisbane Heat and the Bulls.

But Bartlett, who had his parents and grandparents in the stand watching having had his national cap presented by state teammate Marnus Labuschagne, said it was a “different level” doing it for his country.

“I just wanted to get the first ball out of the way and hope it’s not five wides,” Bartlett said post-match, having had his photo taken with national selector Tony Dodemaide, the only player with better first-game bowling figures.

“You probably do put out a little bit more than what you would for a normal game.

“It’s a different level opening the bowling in international cricket and something I will definitely look back on very fondly.”

The nerves were enhanced when Bartlett, who was red-hot for the Heat taking 20 wickets during a triumphant Big Bash campaign, realised he hadn’t played a 50-over game since 2022, a time frame during which he also suffered a back stress fracture playing in the UK, which limited his output in 2023.

“I think I spoke to someone on the phone and I was like, having played a 50 hour game like 15 or 16 months,” he said,

“It just sort of happened so fast and then obviously how to be bashed campaign and then obviously was injured at the start of this year and didn’t have a chance to play any domestic cricket which is a frustrating time.

“I mean, you can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel now and just gotta keep trying to work hard because these days don’t happen very often in the game of cricket.”

Bartlett is well aware of his place in the national pecking order, knowing his debut came in the absence of the likes of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc and even injuries to Jhye Richardson and Nathan Ellis.

Even after such a special performance, Bartlett wasn’t sure if he;d even be a certainty for the next two ODIs in Sydney on Sunday and Canberra on Tuesday.

Xavier Bartlett took 4-17 on debut (Photo by Martin KEEP / AFP) / -
Xavier Bartlett took 4-17 on debut (Photo by Martin KEEP / AFP) / -

But he did all he could to ensure that his name would be a hard one to toss off the selection sheet whenever a national one-day team is picked.

“We’ve got so many great fast bowlers at the moment. Obviously Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins are probably the top three to ever do it for Australia or in that conversation,” he said,

“And then I only really got my chance through Jhye Richardson’s injury and Nathan Ellis was injured as well.

“There’s definitely a long list of people in front of me. But I’ve just got to keep trying to do my best for Queensland, and if I get an opportunity at the higher level, just try and take it and just sort of almost learn as much as I can as well along the way.”