Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Melbourne January 10, 2013

Bailey bristles over 'B-team' talk

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George Bailey is one of the more amiable men in Australian cricket, and certainly one of the most straight-talking, but don't suggest to him that he will be leading a B-grade side into the first ODI against Sri Lanka on Friday. At Bailey's pre-match press conference on Thursday, he bristled noticeably when asked about the perception that without Michael Clarke, David Warner, Shane Watson, Matthew Wade and Michael Hussey this was a second-string side.

"It's still the Australian cricket team, isn't it?" Bailey said. "I'm sure Sri Lanka won't be taking it as the Australia B-team."

It is natural for a captain to defend his team, but there is no escaping the fact that this is one of the least experienced outfits Australia have ever fielded in a one-day international. There will be three debutants for the first time since Steve Waugh, Bruce Reid, Dave Gilbert and Simon Davis all played their first game together in January 1986. And those three debutants, Phillip Hughes, Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja, will occupy the top three batting spots, the first time that has happened since the days of World Series Cricket, when Graeme Wood, Rick Darling and Graham Yallop did so in Antigua in 1978.

"Certainly all three have all earned their place - their domestic cricket record is outstanding," Bailey said. "A couple of Twenty20 games that Finchy has played [for Australia], he's played really well and was man of the match in one of those. Hughesy is obviously really at home in the Test side since he's been back there. They fully deserve it. Their domestic form has been really strong and they all have outstanding games for international cricket, Ussie and Hughesy in all forms."

In fact, it is their likely presence in Australia's Test squad to tour India that is one of the reasons Hughes and Khawaja are part of the ODI group, although both men have also enjoyed very productive Ryobi Cup campaigns this season. The selectors are keen to keep Khawaja and Hughes in the national setup and away from the Big Bash League in the lead-up to another important Test series, and that is just one of the selection factors.

For the same reason, men like Clarke, Warner and Wade are being rested ahead of heavy commitments, while longer-term planning for the 2015 World Cup meant the selectors felt there was little point playing the retiring Hussey. Whatever the case, the changes will provide opportunities for several players, including the debutants, Bailey, Glenn Maxwell and David Hussey, to impress the selectors and stake claims for inclusion on the Test tour of India.

"I think there are opportunities ... for a lot of guys in the side, the newer members of the side, to push for a claim on that Indian tour," Bailey said. "There is a lot of one-day cricket and some big Test tours coming up as well going forward and there are some holes that have been left in that Australian side ... There's no doubt there are opportunities to be grabbed.

"I'm not sure there'll be many blokes out there tomorrow thinking too much about the Indian tour. I think it's going to be challenging enough and enough on our plates trying to win this series let alone worry about that. It's a really simple equation for the batting group, and that's to score runs and be in good form for as long as you can to prove that you're a match-winner, to play spin well, and if you do all those things you'll certainly emerge."

Not only are there places up for grabs for this year's trips, but also the opportunity to become a regular in the one-day side. Michael Hussey's retirement will open up at least one full-time position, for which Finch might have the front-running as a short-form specialist, and although the World Cup is still two years away, the selectors are keen to blood some potential World Cup players now.

"There's a real air of excitement within the group," Bailey said. "There's no doubt the side's been picked with an eye on the World Cup in 2015 and hopefully by that stage, the guys that make it there, if they are the debutants now, have 40 or 50 games under their belt and feel more and more comfortable.

"We want them to go out and bat and bowl exactly as they are and not feel as though they have to replace a Ricky Ponting or a Mike Hussey. The skills the guys have got are good enough. it's about them going out and feeling comfortable enough to express that and I think if we do, this side's certainly good enough to get this side off to a really good start to the series."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kujo on January 12, 2013, 2:05 GMT

    @Meety on (January 11 2013, 01:16 AM GMT) thanks mate! Boy did we show them yesterday! I know we're only one game in but when was the last time Australia scored over 300 against quality opposition.

  • Khooni-Darinda on January 11, 2013, 13:30 GMT

    @Herath-UK 's comment "Is this an escape route as Sri Lanka is favourote to win the ODI series now they can come up with excuses."

    well, Do you think srilanka is favourite to win this series? See the results of first ODI, and then think again.

  • Darkmanx12155 on January 11, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    Sorry "BRADMaN".......................

  • ANRAM on January 11, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    I think Darkmanx12155 is forgetting the state Indian cricket now is. SL convincingly beat India to the finals of Commonwealth Bank series last Australian summer. Though Sri Lanka lost in the WC final they have a better track record than India in big tournaments. Just check the last 03 world cups. So pls do not make comments out of context. India is a team that gets beaten 9 times of 10 for the past few months and that is because of the arrogance of the Indian players. But this series is between AUS and SL so no need to compare with Indians

  • spas on January 11, 2013, 6:48 GMT

    @Darkmanx12155,

    I tried to understand your comment but couldn't. SL cant ever beat india in SL ? btw, who is BradmEn? Cheers mate.

  • Darkmanx12155 on January 11, 2013, 5:18 GMT

    AND yeah.... For those who cant remember how good the indians are.... Just check this link... Thanks Cricinfo.... http://www.espncricinfo.com/awards2011/content/story/599153.html

  • Darkmanx12155 on January 11, 2013, 3:12 GMT

    @StarHawk - Well said mate..... SL cant ever beat india in SL so SL beating india in india is just a dream.... Can't they remember what happened in 2011 WC final???? Indian have a good 2nd string mate.. Unlike any other country... Guys pls check Pujara foe an example... Look @ his domestic record... What more to say???? He is the next Bradmen...

  • dummy4fb on January 11, 2013, 2:54 GMT

    Whilst the ICC rankings are by no means perfect it is telling that Sri Lanka have 5 batsman in this match who are ranked higher than Australia's best, Bailey, and that Clarke, both Husseys, Watson and Warner are al ranked higher than any of the players named. I think that qualifies it as a B team.

  • Hammond on January 11, 2013, 2:09 GMT

    Bit weak this Aussie side. I'd be backing Sri Lanks in their preferred format. In fact, I think I will.

  • ShehanJ on January 11, 2013, 1:24 GMT

    @miles100 Do not count your Sri Lanka's chickens before they are hatched. Remember how Mahela made a funny prediction during the test series, that SL would create history ect? Australia are still playing in their own back yard and I have a gut feeling that they will win the ODIs 3-2.

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