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George Bailey's cautionary tale

Daniel Brettig

January 21, 2014

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George Bailey edged to first slip, Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 1st day, January 3, 2014
George Bailey had a poor Ashes series after a terrific run in ODIs © PA Photos
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The schedule giveth, and the schedule taketh away. George Bailey has admitted that the same run of limited-overs matches that catapulted him into Australia's Test XI, also fostered bad habits that he could not shake during the Ashes, leading to a poor return with the bat and his omission from the squad to tour South Africa.

To win Australia's ODI player of the year award hours after the national selector John Inverarity announced that he was not among the 15 for South Africa rather summed up Bailey's mixed emotions. He reflected on how his run-scoring feats in India did not leave him best-placed to combat the challenges posed by James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

This led to a lack of first innings scores that allowed Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh to be chosen ahead of him for the next Test match assignment. Having spoken at length with the coach Darren Lehmann while missing Sunday's SCG match with a hip complaint, Bailey said he now looked to the examples of the Test captain Michael Clarke and the young middle-order batsman Steve Smith for clues on how to adapt better should he be chosen again.

"I had a really good chat with Boof during the one-day game and I think I've got some things to work on against good quality fast bowling," Bailey said. "I've probably got into some bad habits playing a lot of short form cricket so I've got to go away and work out how to get rid of those, and then work out how to adapt really quickly, which I think you see Pup and Steve Smith do really well, and that's what I've got to get to.

"To be honest I was more hoping than expecting to be on the tour. I think I was a benefit of the fact we were winning those Tests, so as a batsman I think you're judged on setting games up and scoring big runs in the first innings, so I would've liked to contribute more in those runs, and if you'd done that then I think it would've been an expectation to be on that flight as opposed to a hope. I can't really fault it [his omission]."

Bailey had given himself an ultimatum of sorts at the start of the summer, reasoning that at 31 this would be his one and only chance. But a program offering the opportunity to play against Pakistan in the UAE and also India at home next summer, leaves a half-open window, given his aptitude for attacking spin bowlers and the reliance of the subcontinental countries on Saeed Ajmal and R Ashwin.

"I think I said at the start of the series that at 31 you probably only get one crack at it, but I'm hoping now to prove myself wrong," Bailey said. "I don't think it matters what age you debut, you're always going to get to that level and find so much out about yourself and find out so much about that level. I learned a hell of a lot about my game, and you discover there's so much more to learn. So it's reinvigorated me in a lot of ways.

"I tell you what, those five Tests, if that's not the most addictive thing to be a part of and want to get back and feel that once again, I don't think I've ever had a greater motivation."

For now, though, Bailey will start thinking about leading the Twenty20 team against England and then formulating a plan to win the World T20 in Bangladesh, having reached the semi-finals on his first attempt in Sri Lanka in 2012. "We're probably not going to get that squad together until South Africa," he said, "so it's going to be the normal T20 conundrum of how you try to build a World Cup-winning side in a short space of time."

If it does turn out that Bailey's only five Tests were the matches against England that are swiftly passing into Australian cricket legend, he will smile about his small contribution to a memorable summer. It certainly did not go unnoticed by his captain Clarke, who offered generous words to a valued team-mate.

"Bails is a great example of someone who didn't perform as well as he'd have liked personally throughout the Ashes, but I can't tell you enough the benefit of having him around the group, his leadership on and off the field, his attitude," he said. "And that takes more courage and character than when you're making hundreds or taking five-fors.

"To give so much back to the team when you're not performing personally I think that's the most underrated thing in sport and he's been a great example. I also think that's why the whole team feels for him that he's not coming to South Africa with us."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Gibbke2 on (January 25, 2014, 5:48 GMT)

I'm from Launceston, one-eyed Tiger fan, and Bailey is the one player I wanted to see dominate the Ashes, not only out of pure parochial bias but also because he's been such an upstanding and likeable guy since he made the scene. But it was never going to happen, and there was always a sense of foreboding that he would struggle at test level. I'm not convinced he will do a great deal better if he makes one of these later tours, because even if he digs down and trains his butt off, he'll find it difficult to go up that extra level due to his age. He'll finish his career as an outstandingly successful LO batsman, I hope, but I can't imagine gold stars in the test column. Everyone's right about his value to the team, so I hope we all remember the great fielding, cameo batting efforts, off field professionalism and that awesome over off Anderson, and always regard him as a worthy member of the 5-nil 2013-14 Ashes squad...that might be all we get!

Posted by Beertjie on (January 23, 2014, 20:39 GMT)

@Samuel Cardwell on (January 23, 2014, 0:45 GMT) Like you I like his honesty as well as much else about the guy. However, one way to contribute to losing the Ashes next year is for him to get bedded into the team again prior to that tour. Investing in quality middle order batsmen over the next year is the way to go - not taking a punt on all-rounders like Faulkner and even less being satisfied with batting performances like Bailey's in the past Ashes. Glad Doolan was given a chance (hope Marsh is just a reserve). If they don't take their chances when given they should be cut more swiftly than Hughes who was given 9 consecutive tests on the back of his stellar fiirst class record before being chopped in England. Besides using proper criteria to select, it's knowing when to axe that are the hallmarks of a good NSP.

Posted by Ozizim on (January 23, 2014, 3:39 GMT)

My favourite pyayer in this team. He seems to have offered more than others as a team man, but selected as a batsman, he failed to give the big scores needed. Unfortunate that he's not part of the squad, but really hoping for his return some time soon. I do not support the Aus team but I am in awe of GB's honesty on and off the field. Kudos to you, GB, hope to see you soon in a Baggy Green.

Posted by cccrider on (January 23, 2014, 3:02 GMT)

Let's separate out the 'He's a good guy' or 'Give Homer another go' - they are irrelevant.

His performance as a batsman is palpably short of where it needs to be. This should be no surprise to anyone, based on performance over 10 years of long form cricket.

Posted by   on (January 23, 2014, 0:45 GMT)

I like his honesty here. I don't understand dropping him for Marsh though, who's really a bit rubbish - Bailey offers way more to the touring party even if only as a twelfth man! Doolan may be a better option. I really hope they pick Bailey again for the Pakistan series, having protected him from SA's bowlers, as I think that's where he can really flourish as a number six. Even India at home he could play a role, against medium pacers (though better medium pacers than usual in Shami and Kumar) and spinners. If he had a couple good series against those guys it might bed him into the test squad.

Posted by Meety on (January 22, 2014, 23:45 GMT)

@dunger.bob on (January 21, 2014, 23:03 GMT) - i agree. Years ago I wanted Michael Bevan to be a sub-cont. specialist. I would definately consider Bailey for the next tour of India. @oscoli67 on (January 21, 2014, 12:46 GMT) - a) his conference was AFTER the Ashes, b) regarding Pride & Fall, the fact was it DID happen, so he was talking of Fact. No big-noting - as that is when people say "we're gunna do this or that..." Sorry epic fail matey! @Moppa on (January 21, 2014, 23:57 GMT) - he probably only read the heading!

Posted by appapapa1 on (January 22, 2014, 23:44 GMT)

Looks like Australian Cricket Selectors are divisive and when Clarke had back issues and they knew they would lose in India - they wanted Bailey to lead -- how convenient Bailey was a leader. Bailey showed them how to put a tough fight with scraps of demoralized team who came back and delivered on the Ashes. This is the same club that selected Mickey Arthur for coach and gives David Warner 100 chances when his mouth was bigger than his game. Inverarity talks as though he has achieved a lot - 17 is his average in tests. Looks like Nepotism got here with Marsh, his test average is 27 vs Bailey 26 and his ODI is 40 vs Bailey 54. Why not someone else - other than Marsh - go figure this out. Keep your chin high Bailey and make sure when Clarke has a back ache you dont Bail (ey) him out.

Posted by BlackJack16 on (January 22, 2014, 22:37 GMT)

I do feel for George Bailey, considering the irony that his ODI form this past year was outstanding and did a fantastic job as captain in Michael Clarke's absence. But this was only his first experience at test level and the change of rhythm would have no doubt affected his game. The thing is that once you enter a new environment, you understand the challenges that it poses and then you work further on your game to adapt to it and eventually achieve success. So George should take this bad break on the chin and use it as motivation to drive harder and prove himself worthy at test level. I believe he is capable because of his leadership skills, impressive limited overs form and positive and respectable attitude towards his teammates. I know that he will return to the test side at some point if he can continue with all of this. I wish him the best of luck.

Posted by   on (January 22, 2014, 16:14 GMT)

Bailey looked abject against the 'quicks' during the Ashes! Why are people saying he deserves a spot? The SA pace trio would have pushed that average down sub-20 by the end of the series surely. That said, why Marsh earns a spot in the WA XI is nearly beyond me, let alone the Australian XI. Like some of the commentators, I would have selected Hughes (after time with his local shrink) before either without hesitation. But I am looking forward to seeing Doolan make an elegant 17, or perhaps a determined 31 against a swell of single digit figures. They will all be elegantly compiled.

Posted by Playfair on (January 22, 2014, 13:59 GMT)

Its a shame that the Aussie selectors have dropped Bailey. I thought he played some crucial innings at crucial times during the Ashes. His innings may not have been big but they contributed in the wider scheme of play as did his fielding. Hope he fights his way back into contention. Not sure about Doolan but been hearing alot Maddinson..

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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