George Bailey’s Australia is a squad full of young, silent performers. Gone are the days when a spin wizard in Shane Warne and a disciplined, accurate fast bowler in Glenn McGrath, a quick, lethal pacer in Brett Lee and an in-your-face skipper in Ricky Ponting, who were all over their opposition irrespective of the situation in a match. It’s time Australia brace themselves as a team capable of carrying out a calmer demeanour and still reach the highs of the previous era. Prakash Govindasreenivasan has more.
George Bailey’s happy-go-lucky bunch of cricketers have fared exceptionally well, with their performances exceeding their own expectations perhaps. With the entire focus on the Australian contingent preparing to salvage pride in the return Ashes, not many considered Australia’s tour of India as important, probably because it seemed like a mismatch at first.
Under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India has been unbelievable in the 50-over format for quite some time now. ‘Bailey’s boys’ was an ensemble of players who were desperate to prove that they have enough to earn a permanent spot in the side.
In that sense, it the competition between the two outfits wasn’t in sync. It was a finished product hosting a work-in-progress side. Five games down with Australia 2-1 ahead, one needs to revise and revisit their initial impressions of both these teams.
Australia have gone beyond what would have been expected of them to take this lead. They are staring at a possible ODI series win against India in India which might just give Bailey and his side the kind of jumpstart they need to build a strong limited-overs unit. They may be ranked second but are yet to become a force to reckon with. A series win in India is a great way to start their endeavour towards that.
The one loss that has come their way in the series proved that they were far from finished products. They did well to pile on a massive total but failed to factor in the possibility of the current Indian line-up scaling it down without much difficulty. It was probably naïve of them to relax a bit on the field and let complacency get the better off them. But, having said that, their ability to bounce back from such a shocking loss and take a lead in the series speaks volumes of their character.
Bailey, the ever-smiling limited-overs skipper who has stood-in for an injured Michael Clarke in this series may well go on to continue to hold the position as Clarke’s entire focus will be to regain fitness for the return Ashes. Beyond that, a lot will depend on what his fragile body can take and how long it can hold on. For what it’s worth, Clarke may even have to consider giving up ODIs and T20s to prolong Test career, if the latter is indeed his priority.
If that does happen, Bailey has a great chance to groom his side into a potential threat to India’s chances of defending their World Cup title. With the World Cup 2015 set to happen in Australia and New Zealand, the prospect of building and grooming a team for that tournament will be extremely mouth-watering for the Tasmania-born lad.
The entire Australian unit has done well to keep the spot light away from them. They have down played their chances of going to top spot on the ICC One-Day International (ODI) Rankings by beating India 6-1, they have hardly been involved in any on-field scuffle and there has also not been a sense of over-confidence laced with a hint of arrogance once they went 2-1 up.
The Australian side’s blueprint is certainly changing. The high level of intimidation and banter have been replaced by young, silent and yet competitive performers. At the start of the series, Bailey gave an interesting reply when asked about the contrasting nature of the current Australian side and the one that the world generally associates in terms of mannerisms and attitude on the field.
“We are polite. We have got enough challenges and certainly don’t probably have the superstars like Warne or McGrath,” Bailey said, as reported by Indian Express.