White set for Victoria captaincy record
Cameron White will this week become the most prolific captain in Victoria's Sheffield Shield history, and he believes he has many years of state leadership left in him. It has been a difficult few weeks for White, who lost the captaincy of Australia's Twenty20 side to George Bailey and has struggled for runs for the Bushrangers, but this week he has something to celebrate.
When White walks out against South Australia at the MCG on Monday he will be leading Victoria for the 57th time in a Sheffield Shield or Pura Cup match, overtaking Bill Lawry's record of 56. That White will achieve the mark aged 28 speaks of both his early start and also his battle to hold down a spot in the Australia side, a personal struggle from which his state has benefited.
He was thrust into the captaincy at the age of 20, when then Victoria coach David Hookes asked him to lead the side in the absence of the injured skipper Darren Berry against Queensland at the Gabba in 2003-04. That summer White was in charge of the one-day side as well, and by the next season he had replaced Berry as full-time captain in the first-class arena as well.
"It was obviously just something Hookesy saw in me," White said. "I was lucky enough to get the opportunity that he gave to me. Since then I'm sure I've changed plenty. I'm still learning now, and hopefully still getting better. I guess you just learn along the way, from your mistakes sometimes, and speak to people trying to get the best advice you can along the journey.
"I remember having quite a few senior players. Darren Berry and Matthew Elliott were in the team back then, and even Shane Warne in the odd game when he wasn't playing for Australia. It was a challenge but something I enjoyed -- and still enjoy."
Victoria won the 2003-04 Shield final, although by then Berry was back in charge. White's full-time reign as captain has coincided with a period of great success for Victoria: they have won two Shield titles and made another two finals; they have made five one-day finals, though for only one win; and they dominated the early years of the Big Bash, winning in four of the first five years.
"Even in under-age cricket I thought I had a half-decent handle on captaincy out on the field, but probably the thing I've learned over the years is dealing with players off the field, getting the best out of a team, and a squad," White said. "No doubt I've made plenty of mistakes there but I've probably got better."
And for now, White sees no finish line to his captaincy career. Provided his form slump doesn't extend too long, he should have many more years of state cricket left in him, and he is keen to lead the Bushrangers for as long as possible.
"I'm really enjoying it," he said. "I think I'm doing a good job as well. As long as everyone else thinks that, and the people in charge [at Victoria], I can't see why I can't keep doing it.
"It's an honour and privilege to be captain of Victoria for that period of time. I've been lucky over those season to play with some really great players ... it's a really good feeling and something I'm glad to have done. He's a legend of Victorian and Australian cricket, Bill [Lawry]. It's a very nice person to be taking over from ... to cap it off with a win would be good."
There was an encouraging sign for the out-of-form White on Saturday, when he scored 147 for his club side Richmond, having not managed a half-century in any format for Victoria or the Melbourne Stars this summer. White hopes to carry that form into this week's game, which is a must-win as they sit fourth on the Shield table with three rounds to play.
Victoria will regain Peter Siddle for this week's match after he was rested following his heavy workload during the Test summer.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here