Captain White seeks runs and wins
These are challenging times for Cameron White. Now officially a Twenty20 selector after the Argus review recommended captains join the panel in each format, White flew out for South Africa on Saturday needing not only to choose and inspire his young team-mates, but also turn around his own form.
As White departed for next week's two Twenty20s, he knew that within ten days, he would be on his way home again. No longer part of the one-day international squad, having lost his place soon after the World Cup, White has only two chances to get things right on this trip.
He is one of five members of the T20 squad - along with David Hussey, Matthew Wade, Aaron Finch and Mitchell Marsh - who will head home after the matches in Cape Town and Johannesburg, not required for the three ODIs that follow. Having not scored a half-century in his past 21 innings for Australia across both formats, dating back to last October, White knows he needs some runs under his belt to force his way back in.
"I'd love to be playing one-day cricket," White told ESPNcricinfo this week. "That's the way it is. I'm desperate to get back into the side. Part of that is going to be scoring runs for Victoria, which is something to focus on when I get back."
Something he needs to focus on in the meantime is Australia's poor recent record in T20 cricket. They have won just one of their past eight matches in the format, and one of four since White took over the full-time captaincy in January.
Turning that slump around against South Africa on their home turf won't be easy but like Australia, South Africa have named a squad with a few new faces. Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn have been rested, while AB de Villiers is out due to a broken finger and Albie Morkel has also been sidelined by an abdominal muscle tear.
"They are some very big losses for them," White said. "They're pretty extraordinary players and big losses. But no doubt they're a strong country and they'll have very good replacements."
Australia know all about finding replacements. Brad Haddin's recent retirement from T20 internationals, combined with Tim Paine's broken finger, will lead to a debut for the Victoria wicketkeeper Wade, while the season-ending shoulder injury to the allrounder John Hastings allowed Mitchell Marsh his first national call-up.
Marsh and his brother Shaun will become the second set of siblings to play T20 internationals for Australia, after Michael and David Hussey. Mitchell Marsh showed promising signs during the recent Australia A series in Zimbabwe and Shaun said playing with his brother would be a wonderful experience.
"Obviously when Mitch got picked it was a very proud moment for both of us and for the family," Shaun Marsh said. "He certainly deserves his opportunity. He performed very well in the Australia A tour to South Africa earlier this year and hopefully we can get a game together and do well."
Remarkably, at 19 Mitchell Marsh is not the youngest member of the squad, with the 18-year-old fast bowler Patrick Cummins also in line for his international debut. But arguably the most exciting part of Australia's build-up to the South Africa Twenty20s has been the breathtaking form of the opener David Warner.
Warner will join the squad from India, where he has been playing for New South Wales in the Champions League T20, and in his final two innings of the tournament, he has scored 135 not out and an unbeaten 123. That's on top of a double-hundred and 152 that he made for Australia A in July.
The first Twenty20 will be played at Newlands on Thursday, before the teams head to the Wanderers for the second game on Sunday.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo