Bailey at peace with his lot
On Saturday, George Bailey will captain Australia on the first day of their home World Cup. It is very likely that no man will have led Australia in front of more spectators in a home game. The following Saturday, Australia will play Bangladesh at the Gabba. What does Bailey think he needs to do against England at the MCG to keep his spot for the second game?
"I don't think I probably will," he said. "But that's fine."
Bailey is a realist. He knows that Steven Smith is currently undroppable, that openers Aaron Finch and David Warner are untouchable, that allrounders Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson and Mitchell Marsh provide essential bowling options. That leaves Bailey as the only man who can be squeezed out when captain Michael Clarke returns from his hamstring injury.
Sitting at the MCG on the day before the England clash, Bailey looked like a man at peace with his fate. Nobody has scored more ODI runs for Australia in the past three years than Bailey. He has struggled for form this summer, but remains the side's highest-ranked ODI batsman, according to the ICC.
In the past two years, Bailey has led Australia in 25 ODIs compared to 11 for Clarke. Australia have become so accustomed to being without Clarke that at times it feels like this is Bailey's team, not Clarke's. But on the eve of the biggest tournament these men will ever play in, Bailey said he did not feel any sense of loss at handing the captaincy back to Clarke.
"I feel like we have a very strong unit in its entirety, including staff, including senior players, including young players," Bailey said. "We've certainly tried to facilitate an environment where guys are comfortable coming up with ideas, solving problems, creating their own destiny in the way they play, which I don't think is too different from the way Michael has captained when he's been there.
"I think it's great that he's on track. Certainly from the initial time of his injury, I think he's done a remarkable job to get back in time, to even have murmurs of him playing this game, to be available for that next game, as was always the plan, I think he's done a great job.
"All along we've talked about a squad mentality, and I imagine that all the other teams would be feeling the same way, that if you're relying on 11 blokes to win the tournament I think you'll fall well short. We're very, very comfortable with the group we've got, where we're at, and the roles that everyone plays within the team. That's a really important thing, to have clarity around what your role is."
For Bailey, that role is clearly as a leader around the group, which was one of the reasons the selectors stuck with him throughout the Ashes clean sweep last summer despite his lack of significant impact with the bat. That was Bailey's only Test series - his record is five Tests, five wins - and Australia have also enjoyed a successful period during his time in the ODI side.
"I feel like my role has changed a bit within the team in terms of the way we play," Bailey said. "Certainly I'd like more runs, there's no doubt about that. But our record as a team in the games I've played is bloody good, I reckon. I'll stand behind that.
"And what we've achieved as a group is very good. I think if you look at my international career it stacks up pretty well against just about anyone. I'm very comfortable about where I'm at. But like every single batsman who's about to take part in this tournament, I want some runs."
How about a hundred in front of a hundred thousand spectators at the MCG on Saturday? Bailey would take it, but knows even that would probably not save him when Clarke returns. Divide 12 by 11 and you'll have one remainder.
"It's a pretty basic equation there," Bailey said. "What will be will be."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale