Boy is our friend Cam White a breath of fresh air.
At 37, he was (up until recently when he retired in August 2020) still playing cricket for Victoria and will always be remembered for being the youngest captain of his state cricket team, with legends like Shane Warne and Brad Hodge under his captaincy, not to mention his ability to bludgeon attacks in ways Australians genuinely appreciate: think Adam Gilchrist, David Hookes, Simon O’Donnell, Andrew Symonds.
Hookes definitely detected something special in Gippsland-born White when he named him captain of the Bushrangers at the age of 20, because it is illuminated in his worldly view of the game and his integrity when providing advice to young players coming through.
If you want to play cricket as a professional, please read on.
How did you know you could make a career-playing cricket? Did you have a light bulb moment?
It was when I was selected for the first time to play with the Bushrangers (Victoria) when I was still at school. Pretty soon after that I never went back to school much (laughs), and I started playing cricket almost full-time. In terms of a light bulb moment that was it. My hand was forced a bit. I started playing cricket for a living and it went from there.
Image credit Cricket Australia via Getty
Were you always a big hitter in school?
Yes I was, but I was mainly a bowler at the time bowling leg-spin. I made my way into senior cricket as a bowler and then later on my batting and bowling evened out and I eventually became more of a batsman.
Can you describe what the auction process is like for the IPL?
I played in the first seven or eight seasons of the IPL. The auction process 15 years ago coincided with the back end of our cricket season here (in Australia). Myself and blokes like David Hussey had our names in the auction process, and we I remember playing games for Victoria while the auction was underway and you’d be out in the field - where you are not allowed to have your phone - and we’d have rely on twitter updates from our 12th man to find out how it was going. It was a nervous process to go through.
It must have been incredible to get picked up?
Oh yeah, it was life changing for me. I was very lucky in my first couple of years to get paid quite good money. That whole process of playing in the first series and then playing the first six of seven years was a great experience for everyone. It got bigger and bigger and the strength of the competition has grown. It’s still very popular even now. To be involved in those initial years of the IPL was great.
How did playing the IPL differ from Twenty20?
The main difference is just where it is placed. From country to country it’s different all the time. But in India it’s extreme. They absolutely love their cricket there. The wickets are slower, there’s a lot more spinners, the cricket is a little different. But every game you play in India and in the IPL are in front of packed-out crowds and you are dealing with thousands of people all the time, sometimes 20 or 30 thousand people in small stadiums so the atmosphere and noise is off the charts.
Do you carry something personal for good luck when you bat and bowl, similar to Steve Waugh’s famous red hanky?
No, I was never superstitious throughout my career. I know some guys are superstitious about things; like leaving the toilet seat up, and putting their shoes and socks on in a certain way. But I have never been like that, which is a good thing to be honest because it would take a fair bit of effort to go through that every day (laughs). As far as my preparation goes it’s all about being ready for the game.
What is your training schedule like now compared to the start of your career?
It has changed a lot. Cricket has become a lot more professional over the last five or six years. When I first started I was a pretty tubby young fella and had to work hard on my fitness whereas nowadays you don’t see many players carrying weight. It’s much the same in the AFL as well. Your weight and health is always being monitored along with your mental health. There are so many boxes you need to tick now to be a professional player. Cricketers are much fitter now than when I started playing. Maintaining my weight is a big thing. I’d only have to look at a sandwich and a Coke and I’d put on a couple of kilos (hehe).
Are the nerves when walking out to the crease to bat for Australia similar to the nerves/excitement you experienced as a teenager?
It’s different. When you are younger you are oblivious to it all actually. As you get older the expectations grow and you begin to feel the pressure more. Learning to deal with that is important. It’s very different compared to when I played as a youngster, or even for Victoria. The pressure grows and grows, and how you handle that pressure, how you strategise to handle the pressure becomes really important.
You are still the youngest captain Victoria has ever produced.
I know, it’s cool. I was always the captain of my teams when I was a junior cricketer. I think it was 2001 when the late David Hookes took over as coach for Victoria and he believed I knew what I was doing and he gave me the opportunity to captain Victoria, aged 20 or 21 from memory. I was lucky I had a great coach in David Hookes and another coach in Greg Shipperd - one of the all-time great cricket coaches - they were mentoring me at an early age and helping me get through that. I’m 20 years and captaining people like Brad Hodge and Matthew Elliott and Shane Warne at times, so it was a learning experience and challenge.
Image credit Cricket Australia via Getty
What an honour to have Hookesy believe in you that way? What did he see in you?
The main factor in being a good captain is knowing what you are doing out on the field: when to bowl the bowlers at certain times, where to put the fieldsman - which came naturally to me because I understood the game. I had to learn about the other side of captaincy, like managing players, managing personalities, managing egos and trying to get the team to play well as a team.
What advice would you give to young players wanting to become a professional cricketer? (if different from the advice you were given)
My advice would be to ignore some of the advice actually. You get so much advice as a young cricketer, people who want to tell you what to do, how to do things, technique, which is obviously all great advice but as a young player you are trying to take all of it in, and it’s challenging. There’s no point trying to be something you are not naturally able to do. One of the mistakes I made when I was young player was almost listening too much. My advice is to work out what is best for you and what comes naturally to you and make that better.
What tips can you give young bowlers?
Part of the answer would be similar to the previous answer, and that is try and work with your natural skills. Like anything though, if you want to be good at anything you have to practice hard. It’s one thing to have the skill and ability, but you also have to put in the hours of work. If you are bowler, that includes being physically strong. Make sure you don’t hurt yourself though, that’s important - especially for young fast bowlers.
What was the first piece for sporting equipment you remember receiving?
I remember getting a Dean Jones Kookaburra Supreme for Christmas, which was one of my first bats. I also remember being distraught when I went down to the local nets with it and hitting it by accident into some metal stumps - you know, just practising a late cut. I hit the bottom of the bat onto the stumps and put a huge dent into my new bat. I was devastated. There were a few tears that day. Dad patched it up with some duct tape and ended up getting a few runs with it anyway.
If you're interested in reading more articles from other professional athlete:
- Playing the Chicago Bulls (Chris Anstey)
- A light bulb moment that led to a stellar career with Cam Rigby
- A personal story about what I believe the pathway to becoming a successful athlete looks like (Chris Anstey)
- Lessons on mental resilience and overcoming barriers with Elise Kellond-Knight
- How to improve your speed and agility with these top tips from Elise Kellond-Knight