Cameron White does not regret criticising Australia’s recent selection policies and will seek out the selection chairman Trevor Hohns to discuss their differences of opinion after being recalled for his first ODI appearances in nearly three years.
Having dropped Glenn Maxwell and Matthew Wade in large part due to a spate of Australian middle-order collapses in 2017, Hohns and his panel lost their first batting preference when Chris Lynn pulled out of the limited-overs squad to face England due to a calf strain.
Rather than recalling Maxwell or going with the younger D’Arcy Short, they have opted to return to White, who last played in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup campaign and has been in extremely consistent form for Melbourne Renegades. “He’s in very good form as his figures demonstrate, he’s playing very well,” Hohns said. “He’s one of the leading run-scorers in the BBL, he’s experienced, he’s a very smart cricketer and he’s a good fielder. He ticks all the boxes for what we need at this stage.”
In addition to thinking as recently as Christmas Eve that he was no longer going to be considered for the national team, White had been arguably the most ardent critic of the selectors for choosing younger players on their potential rather than more experienced operators with a better track record. The choice of Sam Heazlett for last year’s ODI tour of New Zealand was a particular sore point, and White had also pointed out that it now seemed possible to be picked for Australia out of the Big Bash League regardless of what format it was for.
“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 to earn the absolute right,” White said on RSN radio in January last year. “Now it sort of seems like the Australian team at some stages 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 Futures League. I just want to see the best players playing, I don’t care who they are… I’m not against young players playing at all, but I’m just not sure about bringing people into the Australian team to develop.
“We’ve seen with selection over the last period of time that the Big Bash seems to be the be-all and end-all. You can get picked to play for Australia in any format out of the Big Bash, really. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m just a little worried to be honest, on the [lack of] importance the selectors are putting on domestic cricket. 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.”
These words resulted in a riposte from Hohns, stating the White’s career had hardly been “earth-shattering”, but after a happier exchange on Thursday, White saw the irony in his own selection after strong BBL displays. “I don’t think I’d change what I said, that was just me being honest about what I thought about the selection process at the time,” White said. “Trevor disagreed at the time, we haven’t spoken about it since, but that’s okay as well. Hopefully during this period of time it might be a good chance to talk it over. But it was just a comment on selection, which was an opinion-based thing, and I had a different opinion like many other people do as well.
“Making a few runs in the Big Bash hasn’t hurt, but maybe it is a little ironic. I’d like to think that my one-day cricket for Victoria hasn’t hurt my chances of getting this opportunity… Maybe it’s a little bit ironic – missing games for Victoria was more about playing some younger people and getting some experience into them in Shield cricket at the same time.
“It was no different at the start of this year, I didn’t play the first three games even though I was coming off some really good form in the pre-season in the one-day cup, so it’s just the landscape of Cricket Australia these days, I understand that and there’s no point complaining about it or whingeing, it’s just the way it is. It could well be the same case when I go back to Shield cricket later in the year as well.”
“I’ve got an understanding of my game now, I’m a bit older and understand what sort of mental state I need to get myself into to make sure I’m scoring runs consistently – clear mind, watch the ball and react to it.”
White’s scores of 79*, 51, 3, 49*, 35* and 68* for Renegades followed innings of 66, 19* and 82 in two Sheffield Shield appearances, while he had made 199 runs at 49.75 in four domestic limited-overs cup appearances at the outset of the season. However he has in recent times been on the fringes of the Victorian squad, playing far less consistently than Maxwell, and had widely stated his belief that his international days were over. In many ways, the choice of White from the edges of the Victorian set-up mirrors that of Tim Paine when he was not keeping wicket for Tasmania.
“I was very surprised when Trevor Hohns rang me,” White said. “I probably did think [I wouldn’t get picked again] but in the back of my mind I never did give up all hope, so it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, get back and have another go at it, so I’m just grateful for the opportunity and the chance. It’s up to me now whether I can make the most of it.
“I’ve got an understanding of my game now, I’m a bit older and understand what sort of mental state I need to get myself into to make sure I’m scoring runs consistently – clear mind, watch the ball and react to it. Sounds simple but it’s not that easy to do most of the time. Along with that, understanding my game and situations out on the field. They’re the main things to it, and obviously got a bit of experience behind me now in different conditions and situations.
“The good thing about now is I feel I’m a better player than when I last played [for Australia], so I’m happy that I’ve got another opportunity and hopefully I can show that. In terms of unfinished business or call it what you like, it’s a good feeling that I’m in a better position to be successful now than I was when I left after having the last go.”
Andrew McDonald, the Victoria coach, has already indicated he is “shocked” at White’s recall ahead of Maxwell, describing it as a “kick in the backside” for the younger man. White observed that Maxwell was on a similar journey of self-knowledge that he had been on himself, and would come out of it a better and more consistent player. At the same time he reckoned he was capable of helping to stop the recent trend of middle-order collapses that limited Australia to five wins from 15 ODIs in 2017.
“I think what you’ve seen from Glenn this year is he’s probably now getting a really good understanding of what consistent runs looks like and he’s in really good form,” White said. “You’ve seen it in the Big Bash and playing with him in the Shield, he’s made a double-ton and another hundred, so he’s doing everything right it seems to me.
“But hopefully that is one of my strengths, playing to the situation [when collapses are underway]. I’ve done that pretty well in the Big Bash over the last four or five games. If that’s the role they see me playing, I’ll definitely be happy to do that.”