Fresh Bailey demands more from his troops
George Bailey is being taught to play He's Got the Whole World in His Hands on his new ukulele. This summer he will also learn about holding a state in his palms after succeeding Dan Marsh to become Tasmania's captain.
It is a job he has been groomed for during three years as deputy and he has started by telling the side's core group of mid-20s players it is time to step up. Their campaign begins on Tuesday when they walk out in Adelaide to face South Australia in the Sheffield Shield.
Bailey, 27, is casual, thoughtful and fun, but is starting to understand the range of responsibilities required as a leader in such an important post. He won't distance himself from the group, like some captains do, and hopes the tough decisions don't change the relationship with his mates.
"It will certainly be a big change," he said. He enjoys leading the team meetings and will speak more to the men than Marsh, who is playing on and will continue to offer tactical advice. "He's certainly a massive mentor of mine over the years and still is," Bailey said. "I think I'll be more vocal. Dan was one to lead from the front with the way he played but wasn't a huge speaker in front of the group. I'm more comfortable doing that. My style will develop over the next couple of years."
Bailey is most excited by the young players coming through, such as the wicketkeeper Brady Jones, who makes his debut in Adelaide, Tom Triffett and James Faulkner. He thinks the hardest part of the role will be helping his players - and himself - push for Australian selection. In the past year Ben Hilfenhaus, Brett Geeves and Tim Paine have been promoted and now Bailey wants the next rung of players to fulfil their potential.
"I keep going back to the people who have played quite a number of Shield games, it's time that they stepped up and were counted," he said. "People have said these guys have potential, but at some point the group has got to deliver. I'm included, along with Travis Birt, Rhett Lockyear, Luke Butterworth, Brendan Drew, Brett Geeves, Jason Krejza, Xavier Doherty. It's time that we started performing week-in, week out." If the team is consistent he believes they will contend in all three competitions.
Bailey has been part of the Australia A set-up for the past two years without having the sort of summer that convinces everyone he can go further. In 46 first-class contests for Tasmania over five seasons he has 2996 runs at 38.41, although half his games are at Bellerive Oval, where batting has become much trickier. Last summer he recovered from a slow start to post 673 Shield runs at 37.38, including two centuries as the campaign wound down and the Tigers finished fourth.
"When the season kicked off, I felt like I was on the wrong foot the whole time," he said. "I sat down at Christmas and went back to the drawing board, to the basics of how I wanted to bat, and what I wanted to feel when I was batting, then finished the season really well. I tried to build on that in the off-season and am really happy with what I've done. With the extra onus of leading from the front with the bat, hopefully that will all come together and make for a pretty fruitful season."
He doesn't want the captaincy to hinder his run-scoring and is already looking forward to the peace of the middle where he has only one thing to worry about. Another change as captain is he has been told he has to watch more cricket. That's where the ukulele comes in. "I'm not a very good cricket watcher," he said. "So I thought if I could sit there and strum away with the ukulele and watch a bit, the time would pass quicker."
Jason Krejza, the offspinner, is his teacher and Bailey's team-mates say he's not very good yet. He will persevere for two reasons: he promised his parents he would play a couple of songs at Christmas and he has always wanted to learn an instrument. "It's all a bit awkward, but it's a nice little instrument, and it fits in your suitcase."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo