Has Victoria destroyed a Blonde-haired leg spinner? No, I am not talking of Shane Warne but of Cameron White.
Cameron White came into a fairly strong Victorian team as a 17 year old as the second spinner to off spinner Jon Davidson. The Victorian team boasted Brad Hodge, Matthew Elliott, Paul Reiffel and Darren Berry. Playing against New South Wales who boasted Michael Bevan, Michael Clarke, Stuart Clark, Nathan Bracken, Shane Lee and Stuart MacGill. Played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, White batted at nine and scored 11. Bracken took five for 68. White bowled 21.3 overs to gain four for 65. In comparison MacGill took 1 for 88 from 26.3 overs and Jon Davidson took three for 101 from 41 overs.
So, Victoria picked Cameron White as a second spinner to the reliable but unspectacular Jon Davidson and White delivered with the ball. Up until this time White had progressed through cricket mostly as a lower middle order batsman and a leg spinner, taking 17 wickets and making two half centuries at an under 19 championships.
In White’s first season with Victoria he managed two games for a total of 12 runs and four wickets in first class cricket and four one day matches where he scored one run and took one wicket. In the following seasons White became even more productive. In 2001/02 he played five first class games for a return of 144 runs at an average of 18 and bowled 103 overs at 57.85 for 7 wickets. 2002/03 saw White produce 241 runs at 20.08 and take 21 wickets at 25.03 from 239 overs. A new spinner had arrived. What happens next I still don’t understand.
At age 20 Victoria in all their wisdom gave Cameron White the captaincy. White becomes the youngest person to captain Victoria in their 152 year history. Victoria at this stage had Elliott, Hodge and Ian Harvey who at some stage would captain their state but chose White over all of these worthy candidates. Surely not in a good position to have authority over these seasoned campaigners and people he surely looked up to, White returned first class figures of 12 matches, 581 runs at 36.31 and bowl 294 overs for 30 wickets but his average rose by 11 to 36.83 and would only go north from here.
White, now captain, on the back of his 30 wickets got a trip to Zimbabwe as a second spinner behind MacGill but wouldn’t play a game. On return to Australia the old adage that a captain who is a bowler never bowls enough. White’s overs in 2004/05 dropped to 219 and only take 19 wickets at 39.73. His batting average also dipped to 31.00.
While White’s batting did improve in the future his bowling never did. In the following Australian summers White’s bowling would return 17 wickets at 44.82, nine wickets at 49.77, six wickets at 47.00, four wickets at 57.25 and two wickets at 64.00 last season.
Should Victoria have given White the captaincy at age 20? No. Did the captaincy impede his progress? Most probably. Did it stop Australia having another blonde haired leg spinner? No, due to the emergence of Steve Smith from New South Wales. Will NSW do the same as Victoria? I would hope not.
Probably the biggest question would be if White would have played for Australia more in tests if he kept bowling and I would say yes. Why wouldn’t he when his developing numbers were all going in the right direction until that fateful decision in 2003 to give Cameron White the captaincy of Victoria.
Has Victoria hampered both Australian cricket and Victorian cricket?