Softly spoken, understated and a relative unknown, George Bailey is not your typical Aussie captain. Jo Harman spoke to the flame-haired Tasmanian tasked with delivering the one trophy to have so far eluded Australia.
Are you confident you’ve got the squad to win the tournament?
Talent-wise no doubt, and the challenge of winning the one trophy that has never sat in our trophy cabinet is really exciting for this group. One of the things we’ve really struggled with is consistency; it’s a hard format to get consistency, you tend to play really short series and you don’t see each other for long periods. We’re trying to get a bit more of a sense of unity, a sense of team around the group.
Who do you see as your main rivals?
There are probably nine teams that think they can win it, it’s as open as any World Cup I can remember. It’s extraordinary to think there are nine genuine contenders and there aren’t many tournaments in world sport where you have that level of competition. The fact it’s in Sri Lanka means India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan will be really challenging, and South Africa and England are always dangerous. They didn’t have the greatest tour of England, but on paper I think West Indies should be very dangerous too. It’s a tournament where you’ve got to hit the ground running and it’s a real confidence form of the game too. If you win your first couple of games well, then you’ll probably fly through the tournament.
The side’s been through a lot of rebuilding. Do you know your best XI?
We’re getting pretty close but I think it’s key to have options and flexibility in the group. In Sri Lanka the balance of how many fast bowlers and how many spinners you have is something you’re always going to be looking at and that will continue to be tinkered with.
Do you think the lack of a proven world-class spinner could hold you back?
I think we’ve probably got spinners who can perform at that level; it’s just a case of our guys grasping those opportunities. But, as good as any bowler is, I’m not sure four overs will be the key, it’s more a matter of finding two or three of those guys to do a job for you.
You’ve been touted as a potential skipper for some time. What characteristics do you think marked you out as captaincy material?
I’ve got no idea. I don’t know.
But you’ve had success domestically with Tasmania?
Yeah, I had some success but through no brilliant captaincy of mine. We’ve been blessed to have a great team, a really strong coaching staff and a really strong group culture. I’ve had the opportunity to learn and play under and with some great leaders.
Are you one for rousing speeches in the dressing room?
Braveheart style? No, I like to think I take everyone’s opinion on board; I’m pretty inclusive. I try to get the players around me that I really want and then put trust in them to go and perform. The biggest part of leadership these days is understanding that there’s such a huge range of personalities and managing that. The fact that guys can play at this level means they’ve got an understanding of tactics and it’s just making sure you get them in a position to perform at their best when you need them.
Do you feel under extra pressure to prove yourself after being parachuted in as captain?
Not really, I think you’re always playing to prove yourself as a player, and you do that every time you step out onto the park and take pride in your performance. In terms of captaincy, it’s just a really exciting opportunity. It’s a format of the game we haven’t performed as well in as we could have and so in terms of the room we have to grow and become the team that I think we can be, it’s nothing but exciting.
George Bailey was speaking on behalf of ASICS, the official footwear and apparel sponsor to Cricket Australia. www.asics.co.uk