No one was surprised, when George Bailey’s name was included in the 12-men Australian squad, officially announced on November 12, 2013. Well, 31 years is not exactly a young age for anyone making a test debut but Bailey has lately been having a great time with his bat in limited versions of the game and he could not have been ignored any longer for the tests. On top of it, he is performing well not just as a batsman; he has been leading Australia from the front with aplomb. Though his team lost the series to India, Australia’s batting performance under Bailey’s stewardship was not lost on the media. Bailey and Mitchell Johnson were the only additions to the team that played the last ashes test at the Oval during August 21-25, 2013.
George Bailey had said earlier, while in India, that limited overs cricket was a different ball game in comparison to test matches and he would not give much credence to media speculations on his possible selection in the test team for the upcoming Ashes series at home. But after being named for the first ashes test, he said he would not approach the test batting in any way different from one-day internationals.
For quite a while, Australian selectors have kept looking for someone to consolidate the middle order and several names were under consideration. However, with his current form, George Bailey was thought as the best choice to fit the role. If Bailey does get included in the final eleven for the first Ashes test at the Gabba on November 21, 2013, the 31-year old Tasmanian captain will be Australia’s 436th Test cricketer. The chance will come to George Bailey after his first class debut some 9 years ago. Bailey has since been a well-entrenched limited-overs batsman and captain for Australian T20 and ODI sides. Cricket runs in Bailey’s family, as his great, great grandfather also played for Tasmania in 1878.
It is said that national selector, John Inverarity was highly impressed by Bailey’s mind-boggling 114-ball 156 in the sixth ODI game against India, about three weeks ago. Bailey’s spectacular innings was preceded by his series scores of 85, 92 not out and 98. Overall, Bailey had a great time with the bat in the series, where he collected 478 runs at an average of 95.6, while also serving as captain. Despite the series loss to India, Australia’s batting performance under Bailey has not ceased to be a talking point of cricket press worldwide. As per another story in the Australian press, Bailey made a compelling case for his selection after a weakness was exposed in the Australian top order during their 3-0 series defeat in England in July-August 2013. John Inverarity is convinced that by filling the middle order, Bailey will boost the batting. In doing so, Bailey will be an ideal foil to the highly talented Mike Hussey, who was adept at consolidating the middle-order batting with forceful display in his heydays. Inverarity added further that the selection committee preferred Bailey over others, based on his solid international form, even though it was in the shorter versions of the game. The selectors also considered the fact, that apart from his forceful batting, Bailey’s calm and composed demeanour rubbed on other members of the team during the Indian tour.
During the English summer, Bailey missed a chance to represent his country in the Ashes series as his Sheffield Shield average of 18.29 was too uninspiring for test selection. However, he joined his colleagues for the ODI and T-20 games, once the test series was concluded. Ever since Bailey made his ODI debut in March 2012, he has been a prolific scorer, amassing 1539 runs at an impressive average of 54.96 with 11 fifties and 2 centuries. If one were to look around, these figures are second only to India’s Virat Kohli, who has 1578 at 60.69 but Kohli has played one match more than Bailey. As for the domestic Sheffield Shield games, Bailey has already played 83 matches and scored more than 5000 runs. In the last 20 years of Australian domestic cricket, only four other Australians have played more Sheffield Shield games than Bailey, before making their test debuts. For the sake of records, Bailey will be the oldest Australian batting debutant in recent memory after Jeff Moss made his debut in 1978-79. Moss was a few days older to Bailey on debut.