When I was a young lad, my dear maternal grandfather used to take me to watch my heroes play at the SCG.
The Victorian cricket team had one of the all time great summers – winning the JTL Cup and Sheffield Shield, and the BBL final was between two Melbourne sides.
The only thing approaching a down note… the uncertain fate of Cameron White, who hasn’t been offered a Victorian contract.
White has been one of the all time great Victorian players. Captain at 20, he’s been part of seven Sheffield Shield winning sides and scored 10537 first class runs and taken 195 wickets.
He had a pretty good ODI career too – 91 ODIs is nothing to be sneezed at, whatever Trevor Hohns says.
He returned to the Australian side for three games last season and didn’t click. I don’t think he’s in anyone’s hypothetical World Cup squad.
Still, there is an aura of unfulfilled promise about White’s career – due mostly to him only having played four Tests. That’s four more than David Hussey, true, but it was a difficult assignment: those Tests were all in India, with White absurdly picked as Australia’s spinner.
White could feel aggrieved he didn’t get more chances, particularly when his first class average of 40 has remained pretty consistent over the years, and Australia experimented with plenty of below-40-averaging batsmen (Aaron Finch, Mitch Marsh, Rob Quiney and Marnus Labuschagne).
In particular I felt it was a great shame White didn’t get a shot in the 2010-11 Ashes, when he was in the one day team, in good form, and there were slots available. The selectors went for Phil Hughes, Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja.
The latter two came good, eventually… but who’s to say White wouldn’t have as well? And he would have offered the oh-so-important bowling option and a level of maturity that might have spared us the Marsh years.
The other time I thought White could’ve brought something to the party was post ‘sandpapergate’. Australia had a leadership vacuum at the time, with Smith, David Warner and Cam Bancroft out of action and coach Darren Lehmann clearly not in control of the situation, I think the selectors should have sent out White and George Bailey among the replacement players.
But they didn’t. He didn’t seem to be in the equation at all. He hasn’t been for years.
Too old, no doubt. Too critical of selectors. Too un-pretty. Too independent.
So it seems White’s chances of international cricket are gone. And that Victoria maybe aren’t keen on keeping him.
Victoria feels as though it’s been trying to de-White-ify itself for years. They gave him the boot as captain in 2013 despite him being the best captain they ever had and have dropped him as a player numerous times since, but he keeps coming back and keeps coming up with the goods.
Look, on one hand, I get it, I do. It’s hard to know how long to keep a champion who won’t retire. You’ve got to bring in new players at some point.
But White is exactly the sort of player that should be encouraged to stick around as long as possible in the first class system. NSW got rid of Ed Cowan too soon – he had at least another season in him. So too, I believe, does George Bailey. And White.
The guy can still score runs and take wickets and think up tactics. The guy can still fight.
Most of all the guy can win. Teams win when White’s in them. He’s made a massive contribution to Victorian cricket – he knows so much that can be useful.
Maybe not with Victoria. But there are several other states which could use his experience, skill and tactical nous.
In particular I’m thinking of Queensland and South Australia. Queensland had a poor season this year after being champs the last. They were hurt by the drop in form of Matt Renshaw in particular.
South Australia also disappointed, in part because their veterans (Callum Ferguson, Tom Cooper) let them down.
I think either state should seriously consider making White an offer. If they don’t have the cash dangle something else – coaching training, maybe. I’m sure it could be done.
Maybe Cam White’s form will fall away. Maybe he won’t work out. But it’s worth looking into. He’s still a major asset for Australian cricket and we ignore assets at our peril.