Australian cricket team is going through a tough rebuilding phase. In George Bailey, they may have just found a cricketer who has the temperament and technique to help Australia resurrect their fortunes in the world of cricket. Bharath Ramaraj explains why Bailey in a short space of time has made his mark in the international arena.
Australia’s one-day skipper, George Bailey comes from a quiet and stunningly beautiful city of Launceston. It is a city blessed with wonderful streetscapes, wondrous parks and bewitching vineyards. On a cricket field, win or lose, with a dignified and polite smile, Bailey retains the quaint charms of a vintage city like Launceston. Bailey is a cricketer who plays with a golden heart. He certainly doesn’t even for once fit into the mould of Australian captains of yore who swore and sledged at the opposition ranks. He is a cricketer that no one can hate.
If we turn the clock back, it was on November 30, 2005, that the writer first noticed Bailey through a Sheffield Shield match-scorecard. By essaying a sublime century then, he had taken Tasmania to a nerve-wracking two-wicket win against Western Australia (WA) on a trampoline wicket at the WACA. In the world of cricket, only a few have that God-like genius ability to empty one’s mind, while approaching a daunting target of 348 and playing each ball on its merit.
Bailey, with his pertinacious knock against WA showed that beneath his polite smile, there is a steely exterior of a crouching tiger. When he walks onto bat in the middle, one can see the ‘never-say-die’ competitive spirit emanating from his very eyes brightly. In fact, Bailey comes across as a cricketer who has the tunnel-visioned aim in search of unmatched brilliance.
In the ongoing One-Day International (ODI) series against India, Bailey has taken his batting to heavenly heights. With a touch of calm countenance and undiluted perseverance, he has shepherded a young Australian side from the depths of despair into a position of strength. He reserved his best for the sixth ODI at Nagpur. In that match, the ball kept-on ricocheting of the boundary boards like red-lightning after being hit by Bailey’s magical willow. Unfortunately for him, his heart-stirring century went in vain, as despite amassing mountains of runs in their innings, Australia lost the match to India.
A host of records have tumbled too. First, Bailey broke AB de Villiers’s record (367) of most runs accrued by a captain in a bilateral one-day series. He followed it up with another mind-blowing achievement of being the record holder for the most runs amassed by a batsman in a bilateral series. The previous record (467) was held by Zimbabwe’s Hamilton Masakadza.
In short, Bailey’s success on the tour of India has been such that one can’t help but garland him with a slew of encomiums for the kind of resplendent knocks he has played. Yes, it is true that Bailey is no Mark Waugh to play like a Mozart and wow the adoring crowd with sumptuous shots. He isn’t the volcanically talented Michael Clarke to take aficionados into a bygone era with his felicitous stroke-play. However, cricket is never related to whether one charms the crowd with a glorious artwork of batsmanship. But it is about how many wickets you take or runs you score.
In the shorter formats of the game, especially in one-day cricket, by aggregating 1,535 runs at a highly impressive average of 56.85 and an awe-inspiring strike-rate of 92.74, Bailey in a crystal clear manner has showcased that he has the insatiable hunger to convert starts into humongous scores. When Bailey made his T20 debut against India in 2012 at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), many cricket pundits were amused with Australian selectors straightaway appointing him as the captain of the side. In the absence of Clarke, he has now taken over the mantle of captaining the one-day side as well.
It has to be said, Bailey has made a good fist of captaining the one-day side especially, when one considers the fact that Australia is in a rebuilding phase. It is an open secret that even a tactically brilliant captain is as good as the team. There is also an inkling that Bailey should play the first Test against England at the Gabba in the upcoming all-important Ashes 2013-14 series. Those who disagree with it, point out his rather modest First-Class average of 38.29.
Australian cricket though, is going through a phase where they perhaps have to look beyond just First-Class averages. They need cricketers who can gallantly carry the hopes of the cricket team like a true Atlas. In the last few years, we have already seen young cricketers coming out of Sheffield Shield with eye-catching averages flopping miserably in the Test arena. So, there is no harm in taking a gamble with Bailey. His basics are strong and there is no reason why he can’t elevate his game to another level in Test cricket as well.
The fulcrum of Australia’s batting line-up; Clarke needs a steady hand to shore-up their batting in Test cricket. In George Bailey, Australia may have found a rough diamond that has been polished over time and is set to soar over towering peaks in international cricket.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)