Cameron White is to set to finish his Victorian career rivalling Brad Hodge and Darren Berry for most appearances after his robust form was rewarded with a four-year contract extension.
White has followed James Muirhead (four years) and Aaron Finch (three years) in signing a long-term deal with the Bushrangers.
The Bushrangers endured a miserable 2013-14 Sheffield Shield season but are poised to keep faith with a squad featuring no major changes. They did make a concerted bid to lure all-rounder Sean Abbott, a 22-year-old who bowls with good pace, from NSW but he elected to remain with the Blues.
Apart from the White deal, one of the most interesting aspects of the squad composition, after the first round of contracts, is that it features three spinners: Muirhead, Fawad Ahmed and Jon Holland. The latter, favoured during the Ryobi Cup, was off contract but was nevertheless retained.
The confirmed casualties of the re-contracting period are batsman Michael Hill, all-rounder WIll Sheridan and fast-bowler Jayde Herrick. Neither Sheridan nor Herrick played a shield match this season – both were hampered by injury – while Hill made only 21 runs in his three innings. Uncapped all-rounder Ian Holland has also been released.
Late-season debutant Jake Reed, a 23-year-old fast-bowler from Geelong, has been given a full contract, while rookie contracts have been awarded to swing-bowler Ben Askhenazi, 19, and batsman Seb Gotch, 20.
Gotch’s selection came after an ill-fated attempt to pursue an AFL career. Victoria coach Greg Shipperd said he was pleased at the commitment shown by the right-hander since his return to cricket.
“He did it the tough way and came back through the twos, but once he got to Premier Cricket firsts he was a real stand-out player for Melbourne,” Shipperd said.
Veteran David Hussey is poised to accept a player-coach deal that would involve him being captain-coach of the Bushrangers’ Futures League and 2nd XI teams, as well as a backup player for the Shield team. The 36-year-old was dropped during the season but selectors’ intent to move on to younger batsmen was complicated by the team’s poor form and the good form of Hussey, who finished the season with 573 runs at an average of 52.09.
The contract for White will run until mid-2018, shortly before his 35th birthday. It came after a season in which he was named Domestic Player of the Year at the Allan Border Medal, won the Ryobi Cup player of the year and returned to Australia’s Twenty20 team. Earlier this month he was also chosen to play for Australia A in a home quadrangular series in August-September.
White has played 98 shield matches for Victoria and within two years is likely to trail only Hodge (140) and Berry (129) for appearances. He has he was “very happy” to have sealed a long-term deal to remain at the Bushrangers.
“I was pretty happy with the way I played. From a red-ball point of view it could have been a lot better – I only made one hundred and probably could have made three or four – and left plenty of runs out there,” he said.
“I can sit back and say I’ve come . . . and that over the past two years I’ve played as well as I’ve ever played.”
While White’s personal aim is to make Australia’s World Cup squad next year he also desperately hopes to for a return to team success with the Bushrangers.
“It’s an unusual position for Victorian cricket – we haven’t been down the bottom of the table for a long time – so I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing some of the young fellas step up and take the team back to the right end of the table,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how we bounce back in the next year or two, or however long it takes.”
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