Captain Bailey defends his T20 record
George Bailey has conceded he will only win respect as Australia's new Twenty20 captain if he scores runs himself, regardless of how the side performs. Bailey's highest score in the shortest format is 60 and he has made only one T20 half-century in the past three seasons, but he said batting at No.5 opportunities were often limited and his record "stands up against anyone".
Bailey will make his T20 international debut on Wednesday against India in Sydney, and he will do it as captain after Australia's selectors axed Cameron White from the T20 leadership. A successful state captain with Tasmania, Bailey, 29, is seen by John Inverarity's panel as the man who has the best chance of steering Australia to success in the ICC World Twenty20 in September.
However, he will need to ensure he doesn't succumb to the same fate as Michael Clarke, who was viewed as a tactically shrewd T20 captain but whose own batting skills were not suited to the game. Bailey is a more powerful striker than Clarke and has a T20 strike-rate of 132, but it remains to be seen whether he can turn himself from a good domestic batsman into an international one.
"You are captain but first and foremost you're in there to perform," Bailey told ESPNcricinfo. "That dictates a hell of a lot of the respect that you have. Part of my performance will be my captaincy but the majority of it will be with the bat. I have to perform. I certainly would have liked a few more runs in the Big Bash but since Twenty20 started being played I certainly think my record stands up against anyone, particularly for someone who has batted for the majority in that middle order."
Bailey scored 114 runs at an average of 19 for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League, where he was captained by White, the man he has succeeded as national skipper. But as a man who often bats in the lower middle order, Bailey believes his average is less relevant than it would be in one-day or first-class cricket, because his opportunities are fewer.
He is part of a squad that Australia's selectors hope can form the core of the side that will challenge for the World T20 title in Sri Lanka later this year, and Inverarity has spoken of the importance of building a group that works well together. Bailey echoed those thoughts and said it was vital the squad was well-balanced.
"I think there are a lot of facets of Twenty20 cricket that we're still working out how we measure whether someone has been successful," Bailey said. "Part of naming a squad and starting to work out who's going to fit into the jigsaw puzzle of September is exactly that, what will be a group that harmonises well together.
"You could pick the top six or seven run scorers from the Big Bash and the top five leading wicket takers, but in terms of getting a team together it's about melding all those skills of being able to score quickly and being able to score consistently, keeping runs down and taking wickets and putting all of those things together into a team.
"We're getting closer and closer and we have more data on T20 cricket but certainly batting in the middle order it's always going to be a challenge, compared to a Test cricketer where you get to the end of your career and you say well you averaged this and it gives you some indication. I think in T20 you look at whether people are contributing in partnerships, or what stage they come in, or when they hit their boundaries and their sixes, to be an effective cricketer."
Some Australian fans might judge whether Bailey is an effective cricket based on his first two T20 outings this week, if they have not already seen him play. While the pressure of performing as the national captain cannot completely be avoided, Bailey is confident that he shut out any such distractions against India on Wednesday and Friday.
"It's not something I'll be feeling in the group," he said. "Cricketers are aware that we play in a performance-based game and the pressure sometimes of what other people are thinking, that's often built up in the media. Once you're out there performing, you're just out there doing your job to the best of your ability."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here