The time has come to recall George Bailey
The ball-tampering saga and subsequent turn of events shattered Australian cricket. Steve Smith and David Warner's absence have left a huge void in their batting line-up and more importantly, they have to find a new a leader. The new Test captain Tim Paine is yet to cement his place in the side.
Now, Australia need a player who can rekindle the fire in the team. They need a player, who can provide the much-needed confidence to turn things to normal. They need a leader, who can regroup the team and move on from the scandal. The veteran George Bailey can be that leader. He is always smiling and the calmness he brings to the table is second to none.
The former Australian captain is in excellent form across formats. He has won the 'Male Domestic Cricketer of the Year' Allan Border Medal this year as he scored 1468 runs at an average of 52.43 in the last season. He also led Hobart Hurricanes to the Big Bash League finals. He scored three centuries and 11 fifties in the season, including a career-best 200 not out against New South Wales.
He is 35-year-old. So, will selectors consider him again as he is on the wrong side of the thirties? Of course, they will. Adam Voges earned a Test recall at the age of 35 and retired with a Test average of 61.87. Cameron White, the 34-year-old, recently made a return to the ODI squad.
Australia rate Bailey highly as a leader. They appointed him as the captain in his debut in a T20I against India on February 1, 2012. By doing so, he became the second ever Australian to captain an international match, without having played an international match before, after Dave Gregory in the first ever Test match.
Bailey led Australia in 29 ODIs, won 16, lost 10 and three of them didn't yield a result. He also led the team in 28 T20Is, won 14, lost 13 and one match was tied. In 2014, the right-handed batsman led Kings XI Punjab to the final in IPL.
International Batting Record
The classy batsman has scored 3044 at an average of 40.58 and a strike-rate of 83.5, including three centuries and 22 fifties. He enjoyed a good series with the bat against Sri Lanka in their home turf in 2016 by scoring 270 runs at an average of 67.50. However, he lost his form thereafter and averaged 22.80 against South Africa and 20.00 against New Zealand, which led to his axing.
In T20Is, he has scored 473 runs at an average of 24.89 and a strike-rate of 136.70. Although earning a T20I recall against Sri Lanka in 2016, he did not bat in the 2-match series.
The Tasmania-born player could only play five Tests, in which he scored 183 runs at an average of 26.14, with a solitary fifty.
It is evident that Bailey couldn't do justice to his talent and the numbers don't portray a pretty picture. He was unlucky at times too. He led Australia in the first game of the 2015 World Cup and had to warm the benches in the remaining matches because of the return of Michael Clarke. He scored 69-ball 55 in that game against England but the team management decided to go with big-hitting Glenn Maxwell. At that time, he was ranked No.10 in the ICC ODI rankings.
Now, he is among runs again. He has made a slight change in his stance and runs have started to come. Will the selectors pick him? Yes, they will. Why? In Bailey, they have a natural leader and a reliable middle-order batsman. His smile and calmness can do wonders for the down and out Australian players.
Note: The author writes at www.crickgeek.com