Sport Cricket The unorthodox but undeniable rise of George Bailey

The unorthodox but undeniable rise of George Bailey

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There is a lot about George Bailey that is unconventional. I recall early in his career interviewing him the day after he won a Sheffield Shield game for Tasmania with a brilliant final-innings century.

Nothing out of the ordinary about that, but the sandy-haired colt was clad in a team shirt matched with a pair of loud floral board shorts, not the regular look for a young player on the up.

Sometime after that I was talking to him on air about his early life on the family sheep farm near Longford in northern Tasmania. He regaled me with stories of solo practice sessions in the paddocks picking gaps between sheep (his own take on the golf ball and the stump).

In the formative years of the interstate Twenty20 competition he was known to take the field wearing an afro wig with the name ‘Geronimo’ plastered on his back.

Through those evolutionary years he came to light as someone who was prepared to speak honestly and with originality as he built his playing record and reputation.

On-field leadership was a natural progression and in the 2010/11 season he slipped comfortably into the shoes of Daniel Marsh (of whom he cannot speak highly enough) as Tasmania captain. An ability to maintain the most upbeat body language in the most demanding on-field situations emerged as another appealing yet somewhat rare characteristic.

You will get a discussion about the place and the merit of the Sheffield Shield competition these days but one thing about the shield remains true – excel in it and the people who matter will notice.

Bailey’s on-field leadership and trademark thoughtful, articulate manner did not go unnoticed as Tasmania continued its rise to status as the premier four-day team in the country. The Tigers exhibit cricket’s perfect match – a tight-knit team ethos with talent to match.

Along the way, Bailey has continued to break the conventions. In February last year he became the first player since Dave Gregory in 1877 to captain Australia in his first game. Personal and leadership qualities were clearly being factored in.

In late 2013 George Bailey is revelling in the international game and has become a central character in the national cricket discussion.

His stock has only continued to rise on this protracted one-day tour of India, his bat speaking as eloquently as he ever has. A blistering 156 off 138 balls in the sixth game in Nagpur lifted his series aggregate to a jaw dropping 474 runs at an average of 118.50.

National chairman of selectors John Inverarity has said the team for the first Ashes Test is nearly settled with only a couple of places to finalise; one of those a batting spot down the list.

In this form, the man to fill that spot is surely George John Bailey, great great grandson of George Herbert Bailey also of Tasmania and Australia.

With an overall first-class record of 5936 runs at 38.29 it could be that Bailey is about to do it his own way again and break in to the Test team on the back of one-day form.

He will only have one first-class game before Inverarity names his team, next week’s Shield game in Brisbane at Queensland’s number two ground, Allan Border field.

A slightly unconventional venue, but in the case of George Bailey, unconventional is how he’s always done it.