By R Kaushik in Sylhet
Unsold in IPL 7 and overlooked in international games, Australia all-rounder hopes his form will make a case for Test recall
White is increasingly being perceived only as a Twenty20 specialist at the international level, though even in that format, he wasn’t picked for Australia between the last ICC World T20, which ended in Colombo in October 2012, and earlier this year, when he was recalled to play against England with most of the main Australian party already in South Africa preparing for a three-Test series.
White was at one stage considered a potential long-term skipper in the T20 version, a role currently occupied by George Bailey with no little success. He has led both Deccan Chargers and Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League but went unsold in the IPL 7 auction last month, a definite setback for someone who still has plenty of cricket in him.
Not given to brooding over things beyond his control, White chose not to dwell on being ignored at the IPL auction, choosing instead to focus on the positives and what the future holds for him. “Yeah, it was disappointing,” he said of going unsold, “but that’s the way it goes. Hopefully, in this tournament if I get an opportunity to do well, that would be good. There’s not much you can do about it now, is there?
“My form has been really good over 12 months now. I’ve been happy with the way I have played. My game is in a pretty good space coming into a big tournament like this. The ultimate aim is to work towards a Test recall. I’ve been playing four-day cricket back home, and have been pretty consistent. There might be an opportunity to play for Australia A in the winter.”
Much of White’s success with the bat in the T20 game, where he averages 32.14 and strikes at more than 134 runs per 100 balls faced, have come at the top of the tree, but with David Warner, Aaron Finch and Shane Watson occupying the top three slots, his chances of figuring in the XI have dimmed somewhat, particularly with Brad Hodge’s recall to the middle order cutting out another potential slot. “Obviously, there is not much room at the top now with those guys playing so well,” White conceded. “I just have to wait for the opportunity, whether it is in the middle order, top order or wherever it is. I hope to get an opportunity at some stage.
“I’m probably playing a different role than I was a few years ago,” he said of his status in domestic competitions. “I have been opening the batting for the last few months or so. Earlier, I batted in the middle order. Now, with the field up, it’s something I really enjoy.”
Australia appeared on an inexorable downward spiral until the middle of last year, its nadir coming in India when, this time last year, it was drubbed 4-0 in a Test series with Mickey Arthur in charge. Four players were dropped for the third Test in Mohali for not following team orders to offer suggestions on what could be done to improve team performance, among them Shane Watson, the then vice-captain.
Arthur was sacked just before the start of the Ashes in England, a series Australia went on to lose though there were fleeting signs of a turnaround. That turnaround was completed in the return Ashes when Australia, driven by Mitchell Johnson, hammered England 5-0 before defeating South Africa, the No. 1 Test team in the world, 2-1 away.
White said the atmosphere in the dressing room had changed dramatically since Lehmann had taken charge. “Yes, it has definitely changed. From the time I played last to the Australian summer for the T20s when I got back, I could sense the general mood and the general environment that Darren Lehmann has probably created improve,” White insisted. “The team is in a great place at the moment and a very happy place. Darren provides you and the team with great freedom to just go out and play your game. He gives you the confidence that you are a good player and you can do well.”
There has always been a strong link between confidence and performance, though like the chicken- or-egg debate, the origin of that link has remained unclear. Does a confident team perform well, or do good performances boost confidence? “Probably a bit of both,” White offered. “I think from a coaching point of view, if you have people that can make you feel comfortable around the team and confident, it can help you perform well and that’s one of the things that Darren has done really well, because you feel that you are a really good player and believe that you are a really good player. It helps you to go out and play your game and do really well. I know everyone in the team feels the same.”
Also in Lehmann’s corner is Shane Warne, Test cricket’s second highest wicket-taker who not just works with the spinners in the set-up but also shares his vast knowledge and wisdom in general. White, a leg-spinner himself even if his bowling hasn’t quite taken off, said having Warne with the team was a massive plus for Australia.
“His great knowledge about leg-spin and his general knowledge of the game is so good that it’s been fantastic for the spinners and the team to learn from,” he gushed. “He was with the boys in South Africa, you could just see his impact rubbing off on everyone that was involved. Hopefully, he can be involved with the group for more time.”