Australia in England 2015 September 7, 2015

Bailey, Finch re-emerge from shadows

George Bailey: "I'm loving playing and having a couple of young guys around and feel like I can contribute a lot to that" © PA Photos

George Bailey has kept the orange bib. The signifier of drinks duty became a point of contention during the World Cup when ICC officials insisted that Bailey had to wear it in the same tournament he had started out as captain. On the morning after Australia's victory at the MCG, Bailey raised a warm cheer when he walked onto the podium in Federation Square while wearing the bib over his polo - the source of irritation having become a badge of honour.

The episode signified how Bailey had stood in such an awkward position for some time, as either the leader of the limited overs team or a fringe member of the squad. There was much admiration for how he handled himself, and the team made doubly sure he was included in the celebrations of an achievement he had done much to the set-up, whether it was leading whenever Michael Clarke was injured, or providing a strong middle-order presence with the bat.

"I think it was quite clear what was going to occur, given the lead-up," Bailey said of his World Cup cameo. "I'm not sure there was any score I could've got in that England game that would've changed that. I think the role Michael and I played in that team was the same role, and that was it.

"In terms of overall experience, it was the only cricket goal I've really ever set myself, so I was just making sure I was going to enjoy the few weeks - whatever the role, whatever the situation. At the end of the day you can be a good bloke or you can be a rotten bloke, but if you're scoring runs or taking wickets then you stay in the team. That's as simple as it gets. It's not a popularity contest. That's the same in any business or in any sport. It's about results."

Now, though, the ODI stage has been permanently cleared of Clarke, Shane Watson, Ryan Harris and Brad Haddin, while David Warner's brief reign as vice-captain has been interrupted by a cracked thumb. Where once Bailey was surplus, now he is very much needed. There may even be a case for taking him to Bangladesh as a batsman and source of support for Steven Smith - once more the selectors must deliberate on Bailey's ODI form, as they did two years ago when choosing him for the Test team after his 50-over runs in India.

"I'd love to play cricket for Australia in all three formats - that's my goal . . . I think that's what everyone plays for but overriding that is just playing good cricket and being happy with the way I'm playing cricket," Bailey said. "I feel like playing over here for the past few months has got me into that space.

"Now it's just about making sure I score the runs, and giving the selectors a headache or an option, whichever way they look at it. I'm loving playing and having a couple of young guys around and feel like I can contribute a lot to that. I'm hitting the ball really well."

Another man emerging from the shadows of others is Aaron Finch. While he did take part in the Cup triumph, Finch was a somewhat muted member of the squad, mixing innings of substance in the opener against England and the semi-final against India with a run of lowly numbers. In a way, Finch found himself running down at a time when the Cup campaign was revving up, and now he has returned to the team having had time to think about that.

"It was a tough period because I started off the tournament so well then missed out for a few then played well in the semi-final," he said. "It was just a case of I was doing everything I could off the field with my preparation and my training. I was just trying probably too hard, one of those things the harder you try the more you forget about the basics of the game, and you start to think about things you can't actually control at the time.

"Being away from the game a little bit just gives you a chance to sit back and reflect on why it might have been happening and I've got a few ideas. It's just a case of being as clear-minded as you can. It's a lot easier to say than to do at times, especially in a World Cup when you get to the back-end of it and you're struggling for runs. It's just a case of learning from those kinds of experiences and moving on and still having confidence in your ability."

There was some conjecture about how Finch was not selected initially for this squad, having resumed playing for Yorkshire, after recovering from a broken foot. Bailey went as far as to say that Finch had been "unlucky" not to be picked initially, but the man himself felt comfortable with the reasoning of the selectors.

"I just hadn't played any cricket and that was one thing that was relayed to me, that I wasn't dropped from the team," he said. "I just hadn't played any cricket so I wasn't available for selection in their eyes. I totally understand that, in that I come back probably a week and a half earlier from my foot injury than was originally planned."

Now he is back, and at Old Trafford batted in the adjacent net to Smith. With the Clarke-Watson years drawing to a close, these are Australia's two captains now. Plenty is expected of Smith, but Finch will need to step up also. All the while, Bailey will be around the team to help out in whatever way he can. Pleasingly for him, this now includes batting at No. 4 and not wearing that World Cup drinks bib.

"I think it's an exciting time for Australian cricket with a few of the senior players moving aside," Finch said. "It gives everyone confidence that if they're playing well and in form, no matter what format of the game or where you're playing, you'll most likely be selected. I think that gives everyone around the country a real buzz that they know they're not far away.

"They know there might be a couple of a good scores from potentially playing Test cricket ... that drives everyone, makes everyone strive to be better and be in as good a form as they can."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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