November 2, 2013

Is George Bailey a Test No. 6?

He has had a fine run in India, but swatting full tosses out of Nagpur is no indication of a batsman's ability to see off James Anderson's outswingers in Brisbane

Has Bailey done enough to walk into the Test side? Surely not © BCCI

George Bailey? Good fellah. Perhaps even a top fellah: popular among the boys, technically a fine batsman, a standout leader of men. Without question Bailey is what Australians would call a "good bloke", and there is little higher compliment in the Australian lingua franca.

So good is he going that (if we are to believe the jibber-jabber hot from the popular presses) Bailey is Australia's next Test No. 6. And good luck to him. As stated: good bloke. Yet Bailey's credentials as a Test batsman are, as Marge Simpson would say: Hmmmmmm. His numbers in terms of Test cricket do not stack up.

I mean, good luck to him. He's a likeable man in a fine vein of form. In his last five innings he has scored 474 runs at 118.50. His strike rate in these games is also 118.50. In his international one-day career he has scored 1535 runs at 56.85, strike rate of 92.74. Truly fine numbers. And you aren't ratcheting them up unless you're seeing the ball like a golden orb of Satan. Something like it.

But what weight of these runs? Are you the Test No. 6 because of runs on flat Indian fun run factories? Should this happy-hitting be weighted equally with patient, tough, long-form runs on wickets that nibble about or leap off a length? Wickets that ask questions of batsmen more difficult than "Where should I belt this?"

Of course the answer is no. Because the difference between the Gabba on a sultry day one and a billiards table in Nagpur by night is akin to the dichotomy of Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. That being: there is no comparing these things. They are incomparable.

That's not true, they are a bit comparable. To score a mother lode of runs in one-day cricket you have got to be doing something right. You have to be batting well, seeing it well; confident of your technique and your mindset, and all that.

But swatting full tosses out of Nagpur is no indication of a batsman's ability to see off James Anderson's outswingers or Stuey Broad's heat. It's just not. And Bailey's work in first-class cricket is not sensational. He averages 38. Last season he averaged 18. He bats mostly on Tasmania's home ground, Bellerive, which is not a green mamba, but is green. Just green.

On Bellerive you have to get in and see off the quicks. Ed Cowan did it so well for a while that he earned a spot opening in Australia's Test team. For Bellerive tested Cowan just as it tests others. And technique and temperament have to stand up against quick bowlers who like what they see.

Bailey averages 57 in international one-day cricket. These are serious numbers. But it's quite a long way from 57 in Test cricket

But the deck in Nagpur? The deck in Jaipur? Very good for one-day cricket. A welter of runs. And happy days for fans and administrators and television types who want 100 overs of big-bash action. But as preparation for Test cricket in Australia, Bailey may as well have played mahjong.

Look, again, top fellah, George Bailey. A sunny good egg. No shortage of courage, work ethic and what-have-you. I would have him as a golfing partner and tell people this: Bails? Good bloke. Perhaps even a top bloke.

But the Test No. 6? Swatting full tosses on cricket grounds shorn like skinhead sheep? No. Sorry, George Bailey. But you averaged 18 in the Sheffield Shield last season, and you can't average 18 and walk into the Australian Test cricket team, can you?

Surely even massive ODI numbers aren't prep for Anderson on a sultry day one in Brisbane. Test match cricket and ODI cricket… look, blokes can play both forms. If you're very good at batting, chances are you can bat in Test and short-form. One day I do hope "Big Show" Maxwell bats six for Australia and kills 'em. Good times.

Bailey averages 57 in international one-day cricket. These are serious numbers. But it's quite a long way from 57 in Test cricket. Men who have averaged 57 or better in Test cricket include Don Bradman, Graeme Pollock, Garfield Sobers and Wally Hammond. The super freaks.

Virat Kohli? What a ripper: 17 centuries in 112 innings, the quickest man to that number of tons ever, better than Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Saeed Anwar. And good luck to him. But Test runs in Australia or England or South Africa are surely the mark of a batsman. And Virat and Bails would agree.

I dunno. Look, they can only see ball, hit ball. And do it wherever required. But the pitches in this one-day series in India, well, they make batting easy. That's right: easy. And if you're scoring a century on these decks it means you can concentrate and do the same thing every ball: hit it.

Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here