Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How White Shed His Bit-Part Tag to Take Top Billing

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How White Shed His Bit-Part Tag to Take Top Billing

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID LLOYD

CRAIG WHITE has become such a crucial figure in England's Test team that it's hard to credit he was nothing more than a one-day fill-in player 12 months ago.

Apart from wicketkeeper-batsman Alec Stewart, there is now no one harder to replace among Nasser Hus-sain's squad.

An injury to Mike Atherton would leave an alarming hole at the top of the order. But it could be plugged, at least temporarily, by either Hussain himself or Michael Vaughan.

And if either of England's two premier pace bowlers, Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick, broke down during the tour of Sri Lanka then Matthew Hoggard has shown enough promise of late to suggest he would relish a chance to shoulder the burden.

Even Stewart is covered in the party of 15 with Paul Nixon having proved his worth on both sides of the stumps, albeit only at county level to date.

But now that Andrew Flintoff and Dominic Cork are currently off the scene following injuries before Christmas, White is Hussain's one genuine all-rounder - a big-time performer capable of changing the course of a Test with bat or ball.

The past year has seen a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of a player who used to look uncomfortable on the international stage.

White, first picked by England in 1994 during Ray Illingworth's reign as chairman, showed glimpses of potential whenever the selectors came calling.

But nothing more than that.

What a difference a year makes.

Summoned to South Africa last winter after Flintoff had returned home with a fractured foot, White earned a regular place in the one-day team.

But it was still a surprise to most people when Hussain and coach Duncan Fletcher decided he should be one of 12 players to receive a central contract for the seven summer Tests against Zimbabwe and the West Indies. …

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