Are Cameron White’s fears for Australian cricket justified?

Date: February 3, 2017 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Cameron White stuck his head above the parapet this week and Trevor Hohns was quick to take a shot.

White complained that the national selectors were no longer taking Sheffield Shield and domestic one-day performances into account when choosing national sides.

“Right now, it seems that the Australian team at some stages is a development team”, White said in an interview on RSN. “For me, playing for Australia isn’t about getting a chance to develop. Domestic cricket is where that happens. You can get picked to play for Australia in any format out of the Big Bash, really. It doesn’t make sense.

“I’m a little worried, to be honest, about the importance the selectors are putting on domestic cricket. It worries me for the future of Australian cricket”.

White’s comments came after he was overlooked for the current three-match Chappell-Hadlee one-day series in New Zealand.

Hohns, the chairman of selectors, did not take kindly to White’s assertions. “Cameron has had plenty of opportunities in the past and it’s probably fair to say he performed okay without being earth shattering”, was Hohns response.

Those opportunities amounted to 88 ODIs and four Test matches. White’s first international appearance – an ODI against an ICC World XI at Docklands Stadium in Melbourne in October 2005 – came at the age of 22.

His debut occurred during that brief period when the ICC allowed for player substitutions during a match, with White being subbed into the game at the expense of Damien Martyn during the ICC World XI’s innings.

White may have been only 22 at the time of his ODI debut but by that stage he had already racked up 30 appearances in the domestic one-day competition.

In those 30 games he scored 349 runs at 17.4, with one half-century, and claimed 28 wickets at 29.1. It was his bowling that got him the nod as he batted no higher than number seven in his first 13 ODIs.

In the end, White’s 88 ODIs netted 2037 runs at 34.5 with two centuries and 11 fifties. As his career developed he effectively gave up bowling, finishing with 12 wickets at 29.3.

Fast forward to this summer and White was the leading run-scorer in the Matador Cup, compiling 457 runs at 76.2 with two centuries and a strike rate of 99. He only sent down two overs.

At 33 years of age he was overlooked for the current New Zealand tour with the selectors going for 21-year-old Queenslander, Sam Heazlett. Before packing his bags for New Zealand, Heazlett had played just five List A games.

All of them came in September last year in what was dubbed a Quadrangular A-Team One-Day Series in Queensland.

The series featured Australia A, South Africa A, India A and an Australian National Performance Squad. It was for the latter that Heazlett played, scoring 289 runs at 72.2.

He was forced to retire hurt with a thigh injury during his last innings in the quadrangular series. That injury ruled him out of October’s Matador Cup.

His selection in the squad, without having played a one-day game for his state, was one nobody saw coming.

Former Australian fast bowler Stuart Clark was one who voiced his concerns about his call-up when interviewed on the Big Sports Breakfast radio show. “I don’t know how you come up with that selection. Personally, I don’t like that sort of collection. You’ve got a lot of guys running around playing first-class cricket and you go, ‘Hang on, why are they not getting an opportunity?’ But the selectors have obviously seen someone and thought, ‘Well this guy’s a player of the future, let’s get him into the series’. But I’m uncomfortable with that.”

Aside from White, several other players who had dominant Matador Cup campaigns were overlooked – Moises Henriques (414 at 69.0), Daniel Hughes (386 at 64.3) and Player of the Tournament (271 at 45.2).

The selection of Heazlett for the series against the Black Caps was made even more unusual given the absence of the experience trio of Steve Smith, David Warner and Usman Khawaja.

When skipper Matthew Wade was ruled out of the opening match of the series in Auckland, Heazlett was called in for his international debut – he was dismissed for four.

Heazlett’s debut came hot on the heels of 22-year-old Billy Stanlake’s international call-up.

Like his Queensland teammate he too missed the Matador Cup through injury. He played his maiden ODI against Pakistan at Brisbane last month on the back of four career List A matches. He is currently in New Zealand as well.

Australia, like all nations, have always had speculative selections.

Matthew Renshaw was a highly successful one during Test summer of a very limited first-class background. Shane Warne was perhaps the most outstanding speculative choice we have seen.

This summer there have been several, with Heazlett the most unusual having never played at the level he was chosen for for his own state.

Clearly, the likes of White are not happy with such choices. He will doubtless not be alone in his convictions.

On the flip side, Michael Klinger has been selected to make his international debut at the age of 36 in the T20 series against Sri Lanka later this month.

It will be interesting to see which way Australia heads in the future with respect to its Test and ODI selections.

Will see more debuts handed to the likes of Heazlett and Stanlake or will see White’s fears allayed with more players who have done the hard yards being rewarded?

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 3 February 2017, soliciting 81 comments