Bailey steps into big shoes
When Tasmania played Victoria in their Pura Cup match in November, George Bailey was third in command for the Tigers. Ricky Ponting was available for a rare outing for his state and Dan Marsh, the team's leader for most of the last four years, was bumped down to second in charge.
Now, at the business end of the season, Bailey has been thrust into the captaincy for the first time as Marsh recovers from a calf tear and Ponting takes a break ahead of the World Cup. Tasmania are equal on points with New South Wales, who are on top of the Pura Cup table.
With two games remaining, the Tigers have a good chance not only to contest their fourth final but to host it for the first time. Bailey knows the pressure will be on as he guides the team against South Australia at Adelaide Oval starting on Thursday.
"In previous years Tassie have been needing to win the last couple of games and see what happens in other games," Bailey said. "This year our destiny is in our own hands."
Bailey, 24, has captained his club side, South Hobart-Sandy Bay, and brings to the leadership impressive links with the state team: his great-great-grandfather was the Tasmania player George H Bailey. His first chance to act as the Tigers' skipper was during their limited-overs loss to the Redbacks last week.
"I like to have some control over what's going on out in the middle," Bailey said. "There are plenty of blokes with some experience [to call on for advice], Michael Di Venuto has filled in before. As a team we know where we're heading, I'm just there to marshal them out on the ground."
Tasmania have a few seasoned campaigners - Di Venuto, Sean Clingeleffer and Damien Wright - but Bailey said the team's progress in 2006-07 was thanks largely to their newer faces. Last year three key members of their attack - Ben Hilfenhaus, Brendan Drew and Brett Geeves - were in only their first or second seasons of first-class cricket.
Bailey said Hilfenhaus and Drew had been especially impressive with their work ethic and ability to keep improving. "Those guys are a bit more experienced and it's a bit the same with the batting," he said. "Birty [Travis Birt] and me have been around longer now and are starting to feel as though we belong there."
The chance to spend a week under Ponting's guidance in November also proved beneficial for the younger players. "As much as playing with him we also had the chance to spend a couple of days training with him and seeing the way Ricky prepares to play was really valuable," Bailey said. "He can reel off what's been happening in your second XI or grade sides. It's great to see how seriously he takes it."
Bailey said the competition from players outside the starting 11 had also strengthened the Tigers, as Michael Dighton proved with two centuries and two fifties since his recall just before Christmas. "He took his opportunity when [Michael] Bevan retired and hasn't looked back," Bailey said. "To have guys like that sitting in the wings for the first half of your season ... he's been on fire since he's come in."
Bailey has been pleased with his own form this year but said with only one century in 2006-07 the time had come to lift his output. "I've been more consistent this year with getting a start but have only got one hundred to date," he said. "I need a big one and hopefully I can do it against South Australia."
Although he is looking forward to Thursday, Bailey hopes his tenure as captain is just for one match. Marsh is an outside chance to return for Tasmania's last game against New South Wales starting next Thursday.
In the meantime, Bailey won't be taking the last-placed Redbacks lightly. "They're as dangerous as any team going around," he said. "There are guys in that team who might be playing for their careers."
Brydon Coverdale is an editorial assistant of Cricinfo