Has Cameron White simply become scared to hit the ball? That is the question running through the minds of Australia's new captain Michael Clarke, chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch and coach Tim Nielsen as they decide whether to persist with White for the remainder of the limited-overs series against Bangladesh.
An integral part of Australia's limited overs set-up for the past two years and the national Twenty20 captain, White's sharply diminishing stocks were summed up by a labourious 20 that soaked up 50 balls in the first match against Bangladesh in Mirpur on Saturday. His torture ended with an unconvincing punch over the top that found a fielder in the deep, and watching from the sidelines, Nielsen was convinced that White has to swing harder.
"There was a maiden over before he got out and he faced the first two balls of that over, and then tried to work the ball over the top. Honestly I'd prefer to see him try to hit it for six if he's going to hit it in the air, rather than try to just work it over the top," said Nielsen. "In the end the return for the shot he was going to play was one or two runs, and increased the risk.
"He's just going through a patch where everything he does doesn't work for him. If he does get to 20 again or 30 he needs to really cash in and get to 50, 60 or 70, a real confidence-building innings under his belt."
Nielsen said White is being encouraged to hit the ball hard, as he had done quite successfully in the 18 months leading up to the 2010-11 season, as well as to rotate the strike more often than he has managed lately. "The big difference for Cameron over his last six or eight hits is that he hasn't batted deep enough to really attack the bowlers late in the innings," he said. "So he's got to keep trusting himself. We're talking about him keeping his intent up to hit the ball hard or firmly down the ground from the start and look to rotate the strike."
Callum Ferguson is pushing White for a spot in the XI, having used a less spectacular but arguably more efficient method to average 44.00 at a strike rate of 85.60 in 28 matches, against White's 35.12 at 80.48 in 87. Tellingly, Ferguson has done it without hitting a six, speaking volumes for his ability to work the ball around.
"His numbers really stack up well," Nielsen said of Ferguson. "He was unfortunately injured during the ICC Champions Trophy final in 2009, and someone else has come in and taken his spot. He'll get more opportunities at some stage, there's no doubt about that, and when he comes in, I expect we'll see him doing those things [that have brought him success so far]. He'll add a bit of spark and a different way of playing to the middle order."