Bailey quits as Australia's T20 captain
George Bailey has stood down as Australia's Twenty20 captain to focus on his World Cup preparation and increase his chances of a Test recall by playing more first-class cricket for Tasmania.
Bailey has also made himself unavailable for Australia's upcoming T20s against Pakistan in the UAE and at home against South Africa, although he has not retired from the format. Australia are expected to announce their squads for the UAE tour on Monday and a new T20 captain will be required after Bailey held the job for the past two and a half years.
The unusual Australian schedule for this summer would have meant that had Bailey remained in the T20 side, he could have had as few as two Sheffield Shield games this season to press his case for a Test comeback. Instead, he should now be available for four of Tasmania's five pre-Christmas Shield games; his likely presence at the World Cup will mean he will not play Shield cricket post-Christmas.
"It just made me reflect a little bit on where my priorities lay for the next three or four years and what I want to get out of my career," Bailey said of his reaction when he first saw this summer's fixture. "It's only going to buy me another couple of Shield games this year but longer term it just was something that I wanted to do in terms of working harder on my four-day cricket.
"I know I was picked out of one-day cricket for my last opportunity to play Test cricket and I don't think that would happen again. I think the only way is through Sheffield Shield or first-class runs. The best chance for me to do that is to play as many Shield games as I can."
Bailey, 32, was one of the beneficiaries of Australia's change of selectors in 2011-12, when the new chairman John Inverarity named him as the new T20 captain despite having never played an international match. His tactical nous was viewed as a key asset by Inverarity, who was keen for Australia to push up the T20 rankings from their place at No.5.
His emergence as an international player led to him becoming a key ODI batsman for Australia and making his Test debut during last summer's home Ashes, when he played all five Tests in Australia's clean-sweep. However, although he made useful Ashes contributions he did not manage a century and was dropped for the tour of South Africa that followed.
"I've thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility and honour of leading Australia in T20 internationals," Bailey said. "Over the last couple of months I have had the opportunity to reflect on my role as T20 captain and the direction I want to take my cricket over the next few years. Personally, I want to focus on my one-day cricket as well as becoming the best long-form player I can."
Bailey will leave the captaincy with Australia still at No.5, having won exactly half of the 28 T20s in which he has led the side. He captained Australia to two World T20 campaigns but they were unable to reach a final in either of them, although that had more to do with Australia's struggles in the spinning conditions of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh than Bailey's leadership.
Just as Australia's first T20 squad during Inverarity's tenure as chairman of selectors installed Bailey as captain, the first T20 squad named by new chairman Rod Marsh will need to include a different captain. Aaron Finch, Shane Watson and David Warner could be candidates to lead Australia in their one-off game against Pakistan, although going back to Bailey's predecessor, Cameron White, is another option.
"George is a fine leader and will certainly leave big shoes to fill as Australia's T20 captain," James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia CEO, said. "I'd like to thank him for his efforts in captaining the country in the shortest form of the game. He is an excellent ambassador for Australian cricket, displaying great leadership and setting a positive example for younger players around the country.
"He should be very proud of these achievements. We fully respect his decision to step aside from the international T20 captaincy and look forward to seeing him continue his one-day international career as well as playing more first-class cricket. We also wish him all the best in his endeavours to play more Test cricket."
In his 28 Twenty20s for his country, Bailey has scored 470 runs at 26.11. He remains an important ODI player for Australia and should feature at the World Cup, having been Australia's leading ODI run scorer since the end of the 2011 World Cup with 1772 runs at 49.22.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale