Teenage fast bowler Belinda Vakarewa admits she is still pinching herself after being selected in Australia’s squad for the upcoming Women’s World Cup.
Despite only making her domestic debut for New South Wales last October, the 19-year-old right-armer is now a chance to play her maiden one-day international on the biggest stage when the tournament gets underway next month in the United Kingdom.
"I still can’t believe it, it seems so surreal," Vakarewa told cricket.com.au.
"I got the call and I couldn’t believe it, I went straight to tell mum and went crazy."
Vakarewa was named in Australia’s preliminary World Cup squad following a successful summer with the Breakers and for Sydney Thunder, while she also impressed during the Australia A tour of Sri Lanka in April.
Quick Single: Australia's Women's World Cup squad
With several injuries and the retirement of Rene Farrell leaving vacancies in Australia’s ODI squad, Vakarewa was determined to put her best foot forward during a three-week training camp in Brisbane – but still, she never quite allowed herself to imagine a plane ticket to England could eventuate.
"I knew there were a lot of injuries going around and there was a chance, but I was just training … just trying to stay in it and get my case forward," she said.
"I didn’t think I’d get selected so soon, though.
"I was just executing my plans, (bowling coach) Joe Dawes keeps it quite simple.
"I was just hitting the stumps and I was happy with how I was bowling, but it seemed like everyone was doing really well."
England is uncharted territory for Vakarewa, who has never set foot in the British Isles – but she will be heading overseas with plenty of familiar faces, with six of her Lendlease NSW Breakers teammates joining her in the 15-player Southern Stars squad.
Among those is the squad’s other uncapped member – veteran quick Sarah Aley – who, in an incredible twist of fate, was one of Vakarewa’s first elite coaches, mentoring the budding young fast bowler in the NSW Under-15s.
"(Aley) is one of the people I looked up to when I was younger, so to be in the Australian team with her now is really exciting," Vakarewa said.
"I leant a low from her growing up."
Cricket started off as "just another sport" for Vakarewa.
But it soon became a much more serious prospect, with coaches quick to notice her talent.
"I come from a Fijian background, so football was the main sport in my family," she explained.
"When I told my dad I was playing cricket, he was quite shocked.
"I just started, to play another sport, with my brother at the local club.
"Then I got asked to trial for the girls’ representative team, and from there, the emerging Breakers."
Aley was one of those who knew Vakarewa was destined for big things.
"(When) I coached her in Under 15s for NSW, I knew then she’d be something special," Aley told cricket.com.au.
"She’s a wily fast bowler and she’s still growing into her body a bit but she’s got some good pace and control.
"She’s a really laid-back sort of person and takes everything in her stride.
"She’ll fit in perfectly and given the opportunity, she’ll do a really good job."
"She’s also a fantastic fielder, she’s agile and has good hands in the field and a strong throw as well."
Before she boards the flight to London early next month, Vakarewa and her new Australia teammates will spend a two weeks in camp in Queensland, fine-tuning their World Cup preparations.
There, Vakarewa is hoping to spend more time working and learning from fellow in-swinging quick Megan Schutt.
"I’ll be working out my role in the team, focusing on the basics and on being around the group and knowing how they work," she said.
"(Schutt) was the first person I bowled with in the nets on the first day. I was quite nervous, as it was my first time around the group, but she was being really welcoming.
"She’s someone who can give me advice and help me out, watching her in the nets she goes a lot with the ball.
"It’s good to have someone like her around."
And while the prospect of an international debut in a World Cup would be enough to faze anyone, the laid-back Vakarewa – whose passion away from cricket is fishing – is just determined to make the most of the experience.
"It’s a new learning curve, another new experience," she said.
"I’ve never played in England before but I’ve heard there’s a lot of movement in the wickets, so I’m excited to find out."
Women's World Cup 2017 Guide
Australia World Cup squad: Sarah Aley, Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell (vc), Nicole Bolton, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Meg Lanning (c), Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington
Australia's World Cup schedule
View the full tournament schedule here
June 20: Australia v South Africa, Oakham
June 22: Australia v Pakistan, Leicester
June 26: Australia v West Indies, Taunton
June 29: Australia v Sri Lanka, Bristol
July 2: Australia v New Zealand, Bristol
July 5: Australia v Pakistan, Leicester
July 9: Australia v England, Bristol
July 12: Australia v India, Bristol
July 15: Australia v South Africa, Taunton
July 18: First semi-final, Bristol
July 20: Second semi-final, Derby
July 23: Final, Lord's