George Bailey - The Australian who always does his job well with an everlasting smile
When George Bailey ambled into the sun-smothered, sunny morning at WACA, Perth, he had very little idea that his attire would attract admiration on social media. Clad in a sporting wide-brimmed, floppy hat during the first one-day against India, Bailey earned the affinity and adulation of fans which grew sumptuously when commentators joined the chorus of praise. The floppy hats, which are a regulation in Test Cricket was met with near-universal respect when the former Aussie skipper donned it.
And by the evening, the admiration and affinity intensified, more so because of his batting exploits while chasing a formidable target of 309 runs on a flat runway at Perth.
When he joined the skipper at 21 for 2 in the fifth over of the innings, it was never going to be a cakewalk for the duo given the early inroads made by Indian bowlers. Bailey was to his usual, a peculiar and charismatic smile on his face, strolled sluggishly, took the guard and stood tall. Evading a near-fatal escape on the very first delivery due to the absence of DRS, Bailey never looked back and embroidered his innings with new closed batting stance.
Standing at middle and leg stump with a closed facade, Bailey combined authority with precision and technique with guile to stitch an all-important, match-winning partnership with Smith. He injected the needles into the Indian bowling attack painlessly and his batting looked as simple as his countenance. When MS Dhoni’s mojo of debuting Sran looked bright, he pulled him for consecutive fours towards the square-leg boundary to dismantle the newbie’s rising confidence.
He looked more in control of where his off-stump was and drove ruthlessly, poked gently and hopped the deliveries with great force. The timing was sweet, his hot blade was evoking a crystal-clear sound and the metamorphosis brought about sweeping changes in the way he batted. The balance was there, feet movements were nimble, judgement of the length was calculative and his every shot had the definitive dominance.
While his agile feet were quick to respond and heaved the ball over the bowler’s head; his reverse-sweeps against Ashwin were immaculate and involved a marriage of timing and harmony to nudge the ball in the gaps. His brisk and horse-like legs sprinted smoothly and seldom had he looked out of sorts in his application and execution. If Smith is someone who relishes batting against India, Bailey wore his characteristic smile throughout the innings and seemed like a wage worker who, though never wanted to be noticed, hammered the iron and carved out a quintessential innings.
A calm winner
The century was met with thunderous applauds from the crowds coalesced by his less-fascinating yet enthusiastic celebration. He thumped his pads, waved his blade in acknowledgement and resumed back to his business as usual. It was a modest gesture, a gesture of an individual who is aware of his limitations and never vows to go ahead of them. In his own circumscribed faculties, he arduously chiseled a magical innings.
Meticulous shot selection, support from the other end and phases of luck finally assembled an innings which paved the way for surpassing the winning total. Combining with Smith might not have been easy, for he paddles his innings rapidly but there was no competition to march ahead, the major battled till the end while the lieutenant ensured the robust platform.
When Kings XI Punjab had everything except success in IPL, he revived the fortunes of the side by captaining them to the finals of the cricketing extravaganza couple of years back. He fanned the flames, instilled some fuel into the players and turned the team into powerhouse. That is when his leadership style was also assessed closely and he passed on almost all the counts.
There is an uncanny similarity between Dhoni and him; both are extremely deceptive while marshalling their troops. While former operates with unprecedented moves and minimum expressions, the latter goes on with his business with a composed appearance, always smiling and cheerful. There is never a tinge of frustration- being it losing or winning- and he always takes the situation in hand without being perturbed from it.
When he demolished James Anderson for 28 runs in an over in the Ashes Series, there was no display of arrogance and he walked out in his similar fashion- unmoved and never in awe of his exploits. This is where George Bailey sets himself apart from rest of his teammates, for whom, cricketing books involved a chapter on sledging. He never opened up that chapter and rather limited his modus operandi to playing and winning games for his team.
This is George Bailey for you.
Humble, wrapped in innocence and beguile and minding his own business until it’s finished. And yes, more than anything else, the blush and the charismatic smile on his face will always prevail.