Bailey predicts Indian duty for Doherty
Whatever the format, whatever the venue, it is clear George Bailey believes in Xavier Doherty. Occasionally, as in the final over of the West Indies innings during last year's World Twenty20 semi-final in Colombo, that belief has seemed extreme, but there is something to be said for a captain willing to give his spin bowler a chance.
Following the unfortunately timed shoulder injury to befall Michael Beer, Doherty's place as Australia's lead limited-overs spin bowler may soon be augmented by a place on the looming Test tour to India, a long-awaited moment for the left-armer to atone for an ordinary showing at the first time of asking, during the last Ashes series.
Most of Bailey's domestic cricket for Tasmania has been played alongside Doherty, and he knew well the sense of emptiness the bowler felt when he was tossed into and then out of Test matches with three wickets at a cost of more than 100 runs apiece after two appearances in 2010. For now Bailey is glad to have Doherty at his disposal in the two Twenty20 matches against Sri Lanka, but he is also hopeful of seeing him bowling on the subcontinent in February.
"I've got no doubt he'd like to have another crack at Test cricket," Bailey said. "I don't think he was particularly happy with how he bowled in that situation. The circumstances weren't great for him either, so he'd be looking to another opportunity to rectify that and prove a lot of people wrong. He's a good age for a spinner in terms of not getting too flustered if things don't go his way, he's pretty confident in his own game and got a good knowledge of where he's at."
In recent times Doherty's best role has been as a foil for Tasmania's seam and swing bowlers, bottling up an end or frustrating batsmen into error on Bellerive Oval surfaces that have seldom offered him as much assistance. The Sydney Olympic Stadium pitch is likely to be a slow one, offering Doherty the chance to demonstrate the unflappability that Bailey admires.
"What I see in him is someone who's very settled," Bailey said. "There's times in the Tassie Shield side when playing at Bellerive where he's had to change the way he's had to bowl. There's wickets where he can be quite attacking and wickets where he has to be a little more defensive. "I think he's worked that into his game. He can sum situations up pretty quickly, depending on whether the batsmen are coming hard or if it's X's turn to push for wickets."
Doherty and Bailey are two players in the curious position of auditioning for places on the India Test tour via T20 matches. Given that the World T20 was only recently decided and the next event in Bangladesh is still two years away, the players selected will have differing goals. The likes of Shaun Marsh, Ben Laughlin and Adam Voges will seek to resurrect international careers that had seemed over or close to it, while Glenn Maxwell is in search of at least one display of substance.
"It's a little bit of a transition period, but having said that I think some of the newer players are still very experienced with games under their belt and their ages and whatnot, so we're having a look at some players," Bailey said. "But in terms of the balance of the side it is pretty similar to what we were starting to get together from just prior to the World T20. Not a bad result there in terms of where we got to in those conditions.
"I certainly think we are still underachieving in T20 cricket, more so than any of the other formats. There's no reason why with the players we have, the depth we have that we shouldn't have a side that are consistently in the top couple teams in the world."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here