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Australia's problems seems to be mounting but their stand-in captain dealt with the flak before focusing on what his team could do better
Jarrod Kimber at Edgbaston
June 11, 2013
"I think we've only lost the first game thus far," a smirking George Bailey said.
It has been a rough couple of days for Australia in England. Michael Clarke will not play against New Zealand and, as Bailey put it in a slight understatement, "He's our captain and out best batsman." He could have said, he is our life force, our sunshine, our everything, yet still understated the effect that Clarke's absence has on this team. When asked when Clarke might be back, he said: "I not qualified, I'm not good with backs."
Without Clarke, and with the entire English press corps slating them at every chance, Australia could be forgiven for crawling up in a ball in a corner of Edgbaston and waiting for it all to end. Instead when the press bashing of Australia was brought up, Bailey responded with a gag. "The English press. We read everything they write, we take it very, very seriously and they're privy to everything we do," he said. "No, we take it with a pinch of salt. The loss hurt us more than anyone. We don't want to be losing to England, we don't want to be losing to anyone."
Australia's form is one of the recurring themes of this tournament. Other than Pakistan, no other team seems so incapable of making runs. The loss to England was embarrassing and, despite their being only a couple of Australian journalists covering the team, a second loss to New Zealand will really upset the fans and up the pressure.
Australians generally patronise New Zealand and look down on their cricket. But in this game, with New Zealand's ODI form in England, the fact they won their first game, their bowling attack, and how long they have had to acclimatise, they might for the first time in a very long time go into this game as favourites. Even if the bookies and punters still believe Australia deserve that title.
In the mode of modern cricket, Bailey seemed far more interested in his team than the opposition. Sure, he said the normal, "They're in good form, their one-day cricket has been pretty consistent for a number of years," about New Zealand but mostly he was focused on his own team. "For us to play our best cricket and get back to where we want to be, it's about focusing a bit more internally."
Nowhere is that more important than with Australia's failing batsmen. "Batting's a good example of that," he said. "The challenge is, when you've had a couple of poor batting performances, that the guys start to think about their place within the team or their role within the team. And what we want our guys to do is go out there with that clarity and that freedom to bat how they bat."
Luckily for the players in this Australia squad, with Clarke out, there is really no other full-time batsman to push for a spot, so they have two matches to really back themselves. And they'll be doing it against a team that hasn't beaten Australia in an ICC 50-over tournament since 1999.
Australia are considering playing Xavier Doherty on this pitch, on which South Africa defeated Pakistan on Monday and where spin was hard to get away. Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson are the most likely front-line bowlers to make way but, while Johnson can be flighty and inconsistent at times, he has often been, as one journalist put it, "a thorn in New Zealand's flesh".
Bailey enjoyed hearing that. It was, perhaps the most positive part of the entire press conference for him. Now he will be hoping that after Australia have played their two traditional enemies, he isn't fronting the press on Wednesday night saying we've only lost two games thus far.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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