Bailey set to lead in Clarke's stead
George Bailey is expected to add the stand-in captaincy of Australia's ODI team to his leadership of the national Twenty20 side when the squad for the first two matches against Sri Lanka is named on Sunday, with Michael Clarke set to be given time to recover from the hamstring strain he has carried through two Tests.
As Shane Watson remains unavailable due to a calf injury, and David Warner and Matthew Wade are also expected to be given time off after a demanding Test match schedule, ESPNcricinfo understands George Bailey will have the chance to enhance his standing as a specialist captain, in the ODIs at the MCG on January 11 and Adelaide Oval on January 13.
The national selector John Inverarity's high opinion of Bailey's captaincy and leadership skills may yet see him surprise many by being included in the Test squad to tour India, though he will need some substantial scores over the next month to press that case after making an indifferent start to the Sheffield Shield season with Tasmania.
Michael Hussey's international career may not go on past the SCG Test as the selectors look to try others for the future, with the likes of Aaron Finch to be considered. Phillip Hughes has also a chance to be handed his ODI debut after a strong run of scores in the format over the past year, while Brad Haddin may be recalled to don the gloves in the ODI series during a period of break for Wade.
Depending on the progress of his hamstring, Clarke may then return for the third match of the series in Brisbane on January 18. The national selectors are conscious of not over-stretching Clarke after the events of last summer's triangular series involving Sri Lanka and India, when the captain returned swiftly from one hamstring strain and then suffered one to his other leg. That injury kept him out of the limited-overs portion of the West Indies tour that followed.
This time around Australia's next assignment following the limited-overs leg of the summer is a Test series in India, meaning Inverarity's selection panel is far less likely to risk a less than fully-fit Clarke - to lose the team's captain and best batsman to injury for Test matches in the subcontinent would most likely be disastrous.
Since leading Australia to the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, Bailey has been a quiet participant in the Australian summer, failing to make a Shield century and contributing only a trio of cameos to the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League (BBL). But he showed a cool head when introduced to the ODI team in 2012, making runs in difficult circumstances in the West Indies and then being the only batsman to enhance his reputation during the dire ODI tour of England in June and July.
In 13 limited-overs appearances for Australia to date, Bailey has 445 runs at an eminently respectable 40.09 and a strike rate of 77.50 with a trio of half-centuries and a top score of 65. His ascendance to the captaincy of the Australian T20 team without previously playing an international match had been the source of much debate, something dredged up again recently when Shane Warne questioned Bailey's quality as a batsman during a BBL joust in Melbourne.
A pair of edges by Bailey when facing Warne led the former Australia legspinner to remark while miked up to the broadcasters: "You would think the Australian Twenty20 captain would smack me out of the park, wouldn't you? Rather than keep nicking me?"
Bailey responded to the taunt with good grace, and will now have the chance to audition for further national duty. The possibility that runs and victories against the Sri Lankans could mean a place in the Test squad to travel to India is not out of the question.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here