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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 6, 2013, 5:56 GMT

    Sorry but there is a big difference between scoring runs on a flat deck in India against a poor bowling attack and facing a top class England bowling line up on fast wickets. Bailey needs to score big runs in his few remaining long games before the Ashes. CA has not helped by scheduling a nothing ODI tour to India. In fact CA could give away iced water in a desert.

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2013, 22:28 GMT

    You forget he averaged 50 in Shield cricket the season before last

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2013, 9:19 GMT

    He also made runs in England when australia won the series recently. I stronglbelieve you can only play the bowlers in the parkk. He played the bowlers he came up against in the conditions that were the same for Hughes, Finch, Henriques, Haddin were up against. He made a lot more runs than all these batsmen put together. Finch started well and lost his way in the middle. It takes something to score consistently, whatever the conditions or the qualityof the bowling. If he makes some runs in australia , he is my man. I think australlia have made many failed experiments over the last few years. They are still trying to discover the magic formula. What that formula is, no one knows including the selectors. But Bailey is experienced ,mature and should be given a chance sometime in the series. Ramanujam sridhar

  • Rahul on November 5, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    I an hoping Maddinson (opening with a SR of 50-60) and Khawaja make BIG ones this round to shut a few up. Also Faulkner and Cuttg to get a few to lock them in and Boyce, Zampa and Ahmed to rip a few.I predict Bailey will bomb and Johnson will do well. .The wild guess is Warner. Khawaja getting bagged for one failure but Warner's two failures below the radar. I am still tipping Khawaja to come in at 3 and Faulkner or Moses will get the allrounder berth What if Warner bombs again?

  • Hamish on November 5, 2013, 6:28 GMT

    @wellrounded87, Haddin did not fluff up any chances from Lyon in the Ashes... I don't think he did in India either... Agree on Wade though - Lyon should be averaging under 30!

    Haddin gets plaudits from everyone as he gets a world record for most dismissals by a keeper. Keeps extraordinarily with the exception of one crucial dropped catch off Root. Haddin absolutely smashes Prior comparatively in the series. Haddin has a very good record against Eng. Haddin got out at least three times last series trying to score quickly - Prior didn't once and still averaged 19. Haddin's a no nonsense cricketer and a good leader. Haddin almost won us the Trent Bridge test. Enough? Paine and Hartley certainly don't have it over Haddin to deserve selection.

  • Hamish on November 5, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    Leadership, unifying figure, has class, adapts to the different situations, there's no one in Australian cricket in better form, successful record captaining for Tas, everyone failed last year, courageous and of course, averaged over 50 two years ago in the Shield, we used to develop players from ODIs, the selecting from FC form hasn't worked for Hughes, khawaja and cowan, and of course, he's a good bloke. All those points plus dangertroy's points. He has to be, and will be in the test team. Unless Doolan decides to absolutely dominate the Aus A game.

  • Dale on November 4, 2013, 22:56 GMT

    The article makes a very good point. But his ODI form also makes a strong case for selection especially considering he was getting runs in England as well not just on the Indian flat tracks.

    But his abysmal first class record is very worrying and his even worse record at the gabba is greater cause for concern. He's playing the next shield match i think if he fails he shouldn't be considered however if he gets a decent score and looks good doing so i think he should be selected and if Watson isn't fit play him at 3 and Faulkner at 6.

    Side Note Tim Paine or Chris Hartley should be our keeper. Both are better glovemen than Haddin, Paine is a better batsmen and Hartleys form with the bat recently has been good. Both make a much better selection than Haddin. I know Nathan Lyon would certainly appreciate these selections, between Wade and Haddin, Lyon's missed out on about 15 wickets.

  • pushkar on November 4, 2013, 21:14 GMT

    Hmm Matt Cleary, did you start writing the article-go to sleep -and restart the same thing from para 2? You seem to be repeating yourself. Anway, besides the point. Shield cricket must be a benchmark, but not the only thing. Otherwise, why have selectors? Just choose the top 6 players in shield cricket based on average and draft them into the test team... sounds logical? It does by your article. The thing is every batsman goes through phases of good and bad form. Bailey with this confidence level could play in Shield cricket and score heavily.. since he is in good form NOW. The selectors are taking a gamble, which could pay off. Else they can always go back to the 'best-ave-in-shield-cricket formula

  • Scott on November 4, 2013, 18:41 GMT

    @Fleming_Mitch, What's the point in bringing in someone just because they bowl a bit? The problem with Henriques is that he doesn't warrant selection as a batsman who we can get a few overs from, nor a bowler who we might get a few runs from. For that reason, he shouldn't be in the team. Watson gives our side balance because we are/can select him as a batsman who we know can do a good job with the ball. If he's unable to play, then we select a batsman and use guys like Warner and Smith - maybe even Clarke himself - to break it up and hope for the best. Also, there's no point in selecting a player just in case one gets injured. That's just plain ridiculous.

  • Heath on November 4, 2013, 14:05 GMT

    If he scores runs in first class cricket then yes, if not then no.