Warriors aim to be clever with Cameron
At the outset of last summer, numerous voices were heard to chant for Mark Cameron's inclusion in the Australian Test team for the Ashes. While not always sharply-informed - they tended to belong to media identities like Alan Jones and former players like Ian Healy rather than anyone particularly close to the domestic scene - these voices demonstrated that 30-year-old Cameron had something about him.
Across eight years in the New South Wales squad he has always looked a man most likely, only to splutter and stall with injury after a brief but striking stint in the team. A first-class ledger of 68 wickets at 24.63 with a strike rate of 45.10 bears this out. It was Cameron's potential for great days, rather than for convalescence, that caught Mickey Arthur's eye in Western Australia, and he now has the chance to play a more consistent role with the Warriors.
"The top of his performance level is very high and his career says that," Arthur told ESPNcricinfo. "The trick is keeping him on the park and that's going to be our challenge. Before we signed him we got him over for a full medical, and our medical staff are of the opinion they can tailor a program for him to make sure he gets through."
That tailored program may feature a limited schedule of Sheffield Shield matches, as Western Australia seek to have Cameron breathing fire at the WACA ground and on the trip to the perennially sporting Gabba. But he is far less likely to make other interstate visits, the better to keep him fit across the summer.
"We will be very clever the way we use him," Arthur said. "I'm immediately thinking that we certainly want him to play five Shield games at the WACA and one at the Gabba. Whether we play him in Adelaide or Melbourne remains to be seen. We'll rotate him and be very clever with the way we use him and hopefully that'll keep him on the park for a little bit longer."
Cameron arrives in the West accompanied by Travis Birt and Nathan Rimmington, two other players of experience and impact. Some years ago Ricky Ponting rated Birt the most talented batsman in Tasmania, but his first-class place was forfeited by one too many chancy shots.
"Travis is the first to acknowledge that his appeal is in one-day cricket at the moment," Arthur said. "In saying that I certainly want to resurrect his four-day cricket and give him the opportunity; but there are no promises for anybody, the guys playing the best are the guys who are going to play, and that's what you need in a squad. At WA we haven't had it for ages - it's been a very mediocre culture.
"What I was really looking for was to get another really experienced batter into our squad. What it does is the competition now for those six places, for one to six, is going to be pretty intense. I wanted a squad where there is a lot of good, solid competition for places because guys are pushing to reach higher levels all the time.
"We've got some very good young players, and I'm excited by our young talent, but it needs to be played around experienced players, and when you've got Marcus North, Adam Voges, Travis Birt, Wes Robinson. I didn't even mention Shaun Marsh because I'm not sure we're going to have a lot of him this year to be honest, but we now have a core of players who've been around for a while and will be able to bat with our young players and take them to greater heights."
Rimmington is perhaps the least known of the trio, but he may yet be the most valuable in financial terms, as a potentially important member of the Perth Scorchers Twenty20 side - provided he signs for the Western Australia-based team.
"We've been very selective, we've looked at character and we've also looked at the guys that can fill those holes in the squad," said Arthur. "The season before last our death bowling in T20 cricket wasn't very good at all, so we signed someone like Mick Lewis who could do that for us. Now we've got Nathan Rimmington, a renowned guy with a good track record at bowling at the death.
"I look at our squad now, we lost nine players at the end of last summer. We've only replaced those nine players with three, and the three really add and bring certain roles to the squad that we were deficient in."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo