Bailey defends tinkering with team combination
George Bailey has defended Australia's decision to tinker with their winning side as they begin to narrow their focus towards the World Twenty20 in September. Australia enjoyed a comfortable win in the first T20 in Sydney on Wednesday but they were outfielded by India at the MCG on Friday, which allowed MS Dhoni's men to draw the series 1-1.
Australia were dismissed for 131 having chosen to bat, and their disappointing effort came with Matthew Wade, who had opened and made 72 in the first game, batting down the order at No.6. He still contributed with 32 and his opening replacement Aaron Finch top-scored with 36, but Shaun Marsh at first drop failed to score and the batting was weakened with the allrounders Daniel Christian and James Faulkner left out.
But Bailey believes the two games have provided Australia with a valuable opportunity to assess their T20 stocks in a year when the world title is up for grabs. Australia will play two T20s in the West Indies in March but unless games are scheduled with Pakistan in the UAE during a limited-overs tour that might take place in August, they will be Australia's only outings before the World T20 in September in Sri Lanka.
"One of the things we wanted to get out of the week was trying a few different people in different spots," Bailey said. "Going forward Wadey is going to have opportunities at the top and in the middle. Even tonight I thought it was really pleasing that he showed he can achieve it in both areas. That just gives us another option at different times. As much as trying to win, this week was as much about trying to find out what different people can do in different situations.
"We've also got some players out, Shane Watson, Mike Hussey, Pat Cummins. At some stage we have to knuckle down not only the guys that you want but also the areas, the roles you want them to play. While it was a great opportunity this week to try some people and try them in different areas and at different times with the bat and the ball, at some stage we have to start honing in. I thought this week worked really well in terms of having a look at some different people.
"I think we've got a pretty good mix. I think we've got some great young allrounders, also with Watson out of the team we have another good allrounder there. I think one of our strengths is going to be our versatility when we're full strength, come World Cup time."
While the batsmen struggled in the second game, especially against the nimble fielding of an energised India, Bailey said he was comfortable with the way his side had performed with bat and ball in the two games. The bowlers in particular kept creating opportunities and the fact that India had only two balls to spare when the winning runs came showed that Australia never gave the game away.
"It's one of those tough ones where we want to be attacking and keep trying to take wickets but we know we also can't give plenty of gaps where they can tick the scoreboard along," Bailey said. "It would have been nice to keep them winless before the one-day series but full credit to them, they outplayed us tonight, no doubt about that. It's disappointing that we lost tonight and India have got their first win, but it's probably a little bit surprising it's taken this long into a tour for India to get their first win up."
Some members of the Australian side will now join the one-day squad for the triangular series with India and Sri Lanka, while others will head back to their home states for domestic cricket. Wherever they are, Bailey hopes his men can at least keep the World T20 in the back of their minds.
"We've let guys know that everything that you're doing now with a T20 focus is starting to gear up towards that, whether that's with the bat or the ball, or your fitness or your fielding," he said. "While it's going to be hard as a group to do that [in the coming weeks], individually we'll still be focusing."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here