George Bailey keeping wickets as Umar Akmal's cousin Babar Azam strikes another good shot. (Image courtesy: AFP)
George Bailey keeping wickets as Umar Akmal’s cousin Babar Azam strikes another good shot. (Image courtesy: AFP)

Make him the captain, and he smiles.

Remove him from captaincy, and he smiles.

He scores a century, and he smiles.

Drop him from the side, and he still smiles.

The fact doesn’t change that George Bailey, the ever smiling man from Australia, is superior in the subcontinent than many of his peers by a mile.

Bailey was good enough to don gloves for the World XI but isn’t quite a fit in the inexperienced Australian middle-order in ODIs. At least, that is what the Australian selectors feel. Bailey is a nice lad. He won’t complain, and instead ends the matter — good and bad — with a smile.

Bailey has 478 runs at 95.6, with a strike rate of 116, from 6 ODIs in India. He almost led Australia to a series win in 2013-14. In 2016, Sri Lanka whipped the Aussies 3-0 in Tests. They would have done the same in ODIs had Bailey not resisted. He was the Man of the Series with 270 runs from 5 games at 67.5.

A year after, Australia set a foot on the Indian soil with an inexperienced middle-order, but there is no Bailey. He still smiles. He was last seen smiling in Pakistan, where he was keeping wickets for the first time in international cricket. Before that, he was smiling while commentating on the same series; before that, he was smiling while distributing caps to the elated crowd; before that, he was smiling as well.

Our source in the World XI camp gave us insights from the dressing-room during the carnival at Lahore.

The otherwise grumpy man Andy Flower knows a thing or two about smiles as well, although he seldom (or never) wears one.

When he figured out Kevin Pietersen was deflating it in the English camp, he raised a flag and played a role in shortening KP’s career. However, the infectious smile of Bailey’s caught the otherwise-grumpy Flower in trance: ahead of the final T20I, Flower apparently told skipper Faf du Plessis, “Let’s pick George. At least we will go down with all smiles.”

Convincing Faf

Convincing Faf isn’t a tough job. Once when Kagiso Rabada bowled Australia to a win at Perth, the South African skipper famously said, “I am sleeping with him (Rabada) tonight.” (Faf was being a gentleman here with Rabada, but fortunately, nothing was later reported about it.)

Bailey found his way to convince Faf (not exactly what you think; if you haven’t, then stop) and donned the gloves in the final T20I, and here takes place his ‘evil’ plan; at least, for Matthew Wade and Tim Paine.

Come to think of it, the smiling Bailey eased off Tim’s Paine behind the wickets.

He was then overheard by our source laughing while having a chat with Umar Akmal near the stadium. Security officials were ready to shoo the younger Akmal, but Bailey identified him and intervened.

“Just like you and your dynasty drop catches, Australia find a way to drop me. Here I am with my comeback blueprint. I will try for the keeper’s slot. In Australian cricket, it doesn’t matter who the hell is keeping, with Wadey (Matthew Wade) around we find a way to spill chances; he is much like you, although less talented. At least I can’t do worse and at least can score better,” he said, before completing his plan, “I also ensured Wadey got picked by Tasmania for Shield cricket. Me the skipper will bench him and don the gloves and smile. No, wait. That I do anyway.”

Paine, the World XI keeper, too should be tensed, as he will play under Bailey for Hobart Hurricanes in this BBL. Maybe, he will snatch the gloves from him as well and smile.

Bailey dared to share all this with the out-of-favour Umar. He just found the talented batsman hovering around the academy, where he isn’t allowed to practice by Mickey Arthur. A friendly guy, Bailey just decided to boost his morale. And he thought the secret will be safe as he spoke to him in English.

Relation between Akmal and English.

But for our source…

Weird are the ways in Australian cricket that the smiling Bailey had to resort to this. With 914 runs from 18 ODIs at almost 61 and a strike rate touching 90 in subcontinent, anyone would have been an automatic choice.

Please note that this is a work of pure (like Kent RO) fiction; I mean, the conversation; otherwise, the baffling numbers and Umar Akmal and Bailey’s smile are real.