Why picking George Bailey would've improved Australia's chances against India?

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Why picking George Bailey would've improved Australia's chances against India?

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Dev Tyagi

03/13/2017

The current series between India and Australia is proving to be a nail-biting one. Teams like South Africa, New Zealand, and England have arrived in the heart of the sub-continent to muster up a grand fight, aiming perhaps against plausible logic to mow down India at home. Never an easy task.

You only play to win, unless you are West Indies or Zimbabwe - struggling to survive. Without entertaining thoughts of winning - contesting in the great game of cricket is pointless. What's made capturing what Steve Waugh once famously labeled 'The Final Frontier' even more difficult isn't just pitches alone. Bouncier, turning and trickier than the flat out batting tracks of the early 2000s, it's facing an India powered by R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja that has added to the challenge. They aren't your average spinners who are there to pick up wickets only on turning tracks. For batsmen, they are poisonous snakes that can rattle them despite being armed with vicious armory.

In 2015, AB De Villiers' side including someone of the class of Faf Du Plessis and Hasim Amla failed to fire big. Then came the Kiwis and the English, with batsmen of the flair and exuberance of Kane Williamson, Alistair Cook, Martin Guptill and, Joe Root. It was India again, winning with elan.

However, just when Pune's dismal loss had signaled Australia working up a wonder, India struck back fair and square in Bengaluru courtesy a memorable win spun by Ashwin and Jadeja - two of India's most electrifying and imposing competitors. And this leads to a question. Were the Australian batsmen really adept at handling India's nasty spinners? How bankable are Steve Smith's men against spin, especially blokes like Peter Handscomb and Mitch Marsh who have played very limited cricket against India?

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So in this regard, the only plausible speculation is that did Australia bungle up their chances by not picking someone like George Bailey? Would Australia have fared better having George Bailey around over Mitch Marsh, whose average of 22 didn't just look modest but it didn't exactly help Australia's cause? For starters, it could be said that 34-year-old Bailey perhaps won't have looked the part of a handy bat especially having not played a Test since 2014. His last 5-day run came against England, in the fifth Ashes Test at Sydney. Despite the Aussies clinching the match by a huge margin of 281 runs, Bailey didn't contribute much - 1 and 46 in his two outings with the bat. However, the 46 looks like a much better statistic than the 0 and 13 Marsh could manage in Bengaluru.

But it could be argued that purely on playing experience in the sub-continent George Bailey should've earned his spot naturally above the now proven weaklings such as the moderately impressive Mitch Marsh and newbie Handscomb. The Tasmanian has led Kings XI Punjab, his IPL unit on more occasions in India than Marsh or Handscomb have represented Australia in India together. That augurs for some experience. Moreover, as an experienced campaigner, you are more involved in reading pitches, taking cognizance of grounds and units than as any other player.

He has represented Aussies in 30 away games from 90 ODI innings and gathered a praiseworthy average of 42 on foreign soil

A mere look at Bailey's international record against India would open biased eyes. Bailey has played some exceptional knocks against India - that too in India's den. While it could be argued that an experience of 5 Tests doesn't even substantiate a potential discussion but having a handy ODI experience against a top ranked side augurs well for some consideration. Bailey has had a vast international experience of playing in India than guys like Mathew Wade, Nathan Lyon, Peter Handscomb and off course, Mitch Marsh. From 13 innings, Bailey garnered a whopping 710 ODI runs, batting on turning and bouncy wickets of Mumbai, Bangalore, and Gujarat. Apart from scoring a scintillating recent hundred against India in Australia in 2016, a match-winning 112, his personal best came against Virat Kohli's men as well. A charismatic 156, scored at Nagpur came off just 114 balls with the right-hander creaming likes of Shami, Jadeja and even Ashwin to all sides of the park.

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As a top rate batsman, Bailey has both strokes and character to offer Australia some promise. It is a shame that someone of the class of George Bailey isn't picked to represent Australia in Tests when purely based on domestic and international experience, he should be an automatic choice. We mustn't forget he also brings the experience of being a captain in the past.

With a strong bottom-hand technique and an appetite to score freely, Bailey is adept at both - playing the role of a watchful accumulator in the mid innings and that of an aggressor when the asking rates point skyward.

Also, having an overall batting average of 40 in either format is indeed respectable and something that tags Bailey as no lame pushover with the willow. He has represented Aussies in 30 away games from 90 ODI innings and gathered a praiseworthy average of 42 on foreign soil. Scoring in excess of 2100 runs, Bailey's solid away ODI run that is punctuated by 17 fifties and 1 hundred strongly argues the case for his inclusion in Australia's Test side.

As a batsman, he might seem challenged on an off day as any other but is never daunted and probed into being overwhelmed by any bowling attack. Bailey might not be the best carver of gaps but remains more than just a handy batsman. A mentally tough character whose inner strength is beautifully personified by his smiling elegance and an affable personality only makes him the kind of character you would want in your team and someone around whom the youngsters group easily.

So much of a difference could've been brought to Steve Smith's current contingent in India by inclusion of George 'the dependable' Bailey that it might at the face of it, even seem an outside chance, but when you look beyond the veneer of the man's resplendent character - a potent offering that Australia failed to realize. 

Test Cricket isn't about batsmen who look 'Test cricket like'. Rather, it is about fighting hard, about negotiating difficulties with patience and grit, and about upholding the dignity of the contest using resolve and faith. That's exactly what a bloke like Bailey, someone with enormous first-class experience (8300 plus runs and 22 hundreds) brings to the table. Moreover, with a broad smile on the face.

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