Cricket: More Than The Pitch: George Bailey

George Bailey in action against England, September 2013 (photo: ESPNCricinfo)
George Bailey in action against England, September 2013 (photo: ESPNCricinfo)

He has been an integral part of the Tasmanian Tigers domestic cricket side since being recruited in 2002. Captaincy duties came during the 2009-2010 season, and now George Bailey is beginning to show Australia why he has been touted for so long as a regular for the national side.

Making his one day domestic debut at the age of 19, Bailey announced himself as a destructive batsman who could turn a game on its head in just a few overs.  Ultimately, it was the 2005-2006 season that saw Bailey’s career blossom, being called up to the first class side.

The one quality that stood out was his composure and skill with the bat.  Consistency in the domestic competition was an almost certain pathway to national selection and increased responsibilities.  At the time of his first class debut, Dan Marsh handled the Tasmanian captaincy.

In a very transitional era, Australia has tried and tested the likes of Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell and Steven Smith in the middle order, just to name a few.  The Ashes saw Smith post his first test century, but for Hughes and Khawaja it spelled a death knell.  Neither batsman took charge of their position, giving rise to media and fan criticism.

Eluding the current national Twenty20 skipper is the most important item that would push him past the knocking on the door stage of red ball cricket – first class runs.  He already has 5936 of them at an average of 38.29, but 2012/2013 saw something of a letdown when it came to scoring.  After almost 1500 Shield runs in his first two seasons, Bailey’s 2012-2013 yielded just 256 runs at an average of just 18.28, and only one half century.

Bailey was selected as early as 2010 for the Australian one day international team after a 538 run season, his first as the Tasmanian captain.  While it didn’t lead to selection in that series, the short form performances of the skipper were enough for Bailey to receive the Australian Twenty20 captaincy.  The composure and stamina he displayed to wear down the Sri Lankan and West Indian bowlers last summer, and even the England pacemen in the just completed UK tour speaks volumes as to why he is so highly regarded.

Just one question remains; why isn’t he in the test team? Ability and determination to build an innings are second nature to Bailey, and he is deputy to Michael Clarke in the one day team. The unfortunate factor is a poor 2012-2013 has been a key in distancing him from the test squad.  He has shown enough that he should be considered as beyond the threshold of selection.  Australia has a very fragile middle order that too often is leaving Michael Clarke to do the run scoring.

If the selectors want to put the strongest team on the park in all three formats of the game, Bailey must be a shoe-in for a test cap.  The next opportunity does not come until the first Ashes test at the Gabba in November.  Unless they give Bailey a shot, we will never know if he can shine under the baggy green.

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