Ten years ago, Cameron White was the next big thing, the youngest captain in Victoria's history and an allrounder of immense potential. Five years ago he was a Test cricketer asked to play an unfamiliar role as specialist spinner. Two years ago he was his country's Twenty20 captain. Now, he is none of those things and is fighting hard not to become the forgotten man of Australian cricket. And yet, he feels his best cricket is ahead of him.
White has been around so long, played so many different roles, that it is easy to forget he is only 30. George Bailey made his Test debut last week at 31. Chris Rogers made his Test comeback this year at 35. Of Australia's 11 from the Gabba Test, only Peter Siddle, David Warner, Nathan Lyon and Steven Smith are younger than White. That is not to say White should have been in the side, just that his days as a Test cricketer may be far from over.
While the Australians were wrapping up victory at the Gabba, White was in Perth compiling his first century of the Sheffield Shield summer, a fighting 131 that could not prevent a loss for Victoria. He was a stand-out batsman in the Ryobi Cup last month, finishing third on the run tally with five half-centuries from six innings, and that was enough for him to be named the Australian Cricketers' Association's Player of the Month for October.
The form has carried on into the Shield: he has started the first-class campaign with scores of 83, 61, 48, 70 not out, 33, 21, 0 and 131. Only Marcus North has more runs so far in the Shield season. But on domestic pitches that are offering more for the batsmen than over the past few summers, White knows that one hundred may not be enough to grab the attention of the national selectors, and not since 2008-09 has he managed more than one hundred in a Shield season.
"I feel as though especially over the last few years, I don't think I've played more than seven or eight Sheffield Shield games, because you're always in or out if you're in the one-day side or playing Twenty20 matches here or there," White told ESPNcricinfo. "I don't think I've played ten full Sheffield Shield games for quite a long time [since 2005-06]. It's good to get a good run of games under my belt to give myself a chance to make that amount of runs.
"That's one good thing about the formats and the way the schedule is this year, you get the one-dayers and get into a bit of a rhythm there and then you can focus on the four-day stuff and the switch into Big Bash and then finish off the year again. Hopefully I'll play all ten games and give myself the best chance to make as many runs as I can and hopefully get some big scores.
"I still feel as though my best cricket is in front of me. I feel as though over the last couple of years I've only improved. I'm desperate to get another game for Australia. Hopefully the selectors haven't put a line through my name in any of the formats, really. Hopefully I'll keep pumping out the runs in all the formats and hopefully I can take a few wickets, which I have done this year as well."
White credits his form to a strong off-season spent at the IPL and then playing for Northamptonshire in county cricket, but he returned home to the unfamiliar role of being a player only for Victoria after Matthew Wade was given the state captaincy. Although he believes that focusing solely on his own game has been an advantage this summer, he does not subscribe to the theory that there is a direct link between handing over the leadership and his return to form.
"In the last little period when my form was off I felt as though I was still batting okay but mentally I wasn't really on the job," White said. "That's been the biggest change, just to really clear my mind and play with freedom. That's something I've concentrated on and it seems to be working at the moment.
"Everyone keeps saying [the captaincy has played a part] but I played eight really good years when I was captain, and had maybe one bad one when I was as well. No one really said anything for the first eight years. I think it's more coincidental. I'm enjoying my role now that I've got with the Victorian team, Matt is doing a great job and the team is in a happy place. One bonus is I can really concentrate on my own game and my own preparation and getting ready for matches."
Oddly enough, his form seems also to have extended to his bowling, for he has six Shield wickets already this year from only 44 overs. That's a bigger wicket tally than he took in the entire 2008-09 season, which had started with him playing four Tests for Australia as a specialist legspinner in India. It was similar to the way fellow legspinning allrounder Steven Smith was introduced to Test cricket, as a bowler despite his batting being his greater strength.
Smith has already returned to the Test outfit as a batsman; for White, that day has not yet arrived. At different times, White has been everything and nothing to Australian cricket. He has played as a batsman, as a bowler, as captain, and has always been a star fielder. For the time being, he is the forgotten man, having not played for his country in any format for more than a year. But White remembers his brief Test career fondly, and hopes that at 30, it is not yet complete.
"I'd never take that moment away, it's something I really enjoyed and fought hard at the time, but it was a bit of a surprise at the time when personally I didn't think my bowling was in a great place," White said of the Test tour of India in 2008. "I think probably now I could do a better job, to be honest. I definitely wouldn't take it back, I loved having a crack and I'd love to have another go at some stage, maybe in a slightly different role."
White polled 25% of the votes to win the ACA Player of the Month title for October, ahead of David Warner on 21.7% and Ben Cutting on 16.3%.