Bailey not pretty, but finds a way - di Venuto
Australia's batting coach, Michael di Venuto, believes criticism of George Bailey's technique misses the point that Bailey is an adaptable player who has found a way to succeed in all formats over a ten-year period. Bailey is expected to become Australia's 436th Test cricketer in the opening match of this summer's Ashes series at the Gabba, and he was chosen largely on his outstanding form in the recent one-day series in India.
As a first-class cricketer, Bailey has a solid if not spectacular record of 6011 runs at 38.28, including 14 centuries, and some critics - notably Ian Chappell - have voiced concerns about weaknesses in his game, including against the short ball. However, di Venuto has seen as much of Bailey as anyone in Australian cricket, first as a team-mate with Tasmania and then as a state assistant coach until earlier this year, and he believes Bailey has all the skills required for Test cricket, if his decision-making is sound.
"When I've seen people bowl short to him he normally plays it pretty well," di Venuto said. "He's got a pull and a hook shot, it's just picking the right balls, like it is with anything. Test cricket is all about decision-making, whether you're going to play at the ball or not, because you're there to bat for long periods of time.
"It doesn't mean you have to change your attacking ways, it's just a matter of picking the right balls to attack, so that when it comes into your areas you pick them off. If it's not there in your areas, you let them go or defend. That's as simple as George has got to keep it."
When Bailey first started as a state player in 2004-05, di Venuto was a batting veteran in the Tasmania side and the two men took the field together often over the next few seasons. Bailey's maiden first-class century came in November 2005 when di Venuto captained a Tasmanian outfit that chased down 348 on the fourth day against Western Australia at the WACA, and Bailey was the star of the pursuit with 117.
"George has always been a player who finds a way," di Venuto said. "You watch him in the nets and as he admits, he's not the prettiest looking batter at times and you think 'how can this bloke score runs?' but get him out in the middle of the contest and George finds a way. Hopefully he can adapt to Test cricket just as quickly as he has one-day international cricket, and how he did when he first started playing for Tasmania."
Although he piled up 478 runs in the recent ODI tour of India and has been the second-highest run scorer in one-day internationals since his debut - only Virat Kohli has more worldwide - he has not scored a first-class hundred in his past 18 matches. His last Sheffield Shield summer was especially disappointing, as he scored only 256 runs at 18.28, but di Venuto said it was a particularly challenging season for Bailey, who had to switch formats 18 times at domestic and international level.
"His season was very stop-start," di Venuto said. "He had no momentum going into four-day cricket. He had Big Bash, he was away playing for Australia, our wickets at the start of last year [in Hobart] weren't that great, they'd been relaid and were up and down. Sometimes batters just have poor years, for whatever reason, and it can be in just one form of the game.
"Last season for whatever reason, George didn't perform in four-day stuff. But he's played a lot of first-class cricket, he's scored 14 first-class hundreds, he's done it before. The year before he averaged 58 with three hundreds.
"He's just come off an extraordinary series in India, where he was absolutely flying. He's totally on top of his game and full of confidence. It's been well-documented what he brings to the side as far as leadership, and he's just a very sound individual. He's a good fella, George. He's a good player to have on your side and have around the group. But number one, he's in exceptional form and playing beautifully."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here