Australia’s newest selector George Bailey won’t shy away from difficult selection conversations with players he shares close relationships with, including Tasmania team-mates Tim Paine and Matthew Wade.
Bailey won’t begin his role alongside Justin Langer and Trevor Hohns until early February and will instead be an unofficial national teams advisor in the interim while he finishes his playing career with Tasmania and the Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL.
Bailey’s appointment has been met with universal approval, but as a current player who has played with and against almost every player involved in the national teams he will have some unique issues to manage. He captained a number of the players involved in the current teams at T20I and ODI level and has also played his entire domestic career alongside Test captain Paine, whose international career will almost certainly end during Bailey’s time on the panel, although there is no suggestion that would be imminent. He has also played alongside Wade for many years with both Tasmania and Australia.
“I’m certainly going in with eyes wide open to the fact that there are difficult conversations that will be had,” Bailey said. “Those two, in particular, I think it’s all just about being honest. It certainly won’t be my decision and my decision alone and like any player, you work through those things, hopefully together, but at the appropriate times.
“I feel like I’m a servant to the players and every player, or certainly the majority of the players playing first-class cricket, their dream is to play cricket for Australia. My job is to select the lucky few that get the opportunity to do that.
“But you’re also trying to help those that are not quite in the mix, giving them some help and advice as to how you think they can get there and also the guys that have had the opportunity and then find themselves back out of the team, you’re trying to help them out to get them back into that team.”
Bailey also said he had thick skin as far as any criticism that might be levelled at him in the role.
“Have you seen the way I stand to face up to face a cricket ball?” Bailey said. “I’m happy to cop a little bit of criticism. That won’t be any concern. Who should and shouldn’t be in the Australian cricket team is always a hot topic of conversation, which is great. There will be a lot of people whose advice I think is important, and there’ll be a lot that won’t.”
Bailey has been named in Tasmania’s Sheffield Shield squad to face Queensland in Hobart starting on Friday, and he will also be available for Tasmania’s last match before the BBL break against South Australia, but he is adamant he does not want a farewell game if he is not in Tasmania’s best XI. He will play in the BBL for the Hurricanes but will retire from all forms at the end of the tournament.
He plans to use his last two months as a player to do some reconnaissance on the role.
“I’ll use that time to talk to coaches and players and high performance staff about what that might look like and what players’ expectations are, what coaches’ expectations are,” Bailey said. “My perspective has been one of player for many, many years and I’ve got some clear thoughts on what that’s been like and what players feel like but learning what it looks like from the other side of the fence will be important.
“It seems to be that communication pops up a lot, which I think is one that can be easily fixed or understood. How much players want, how much stakeholders want, coaches, whether there’s an expectation that players who aren’t necessarily in and around the team still want a little bit more feedback.”
He said performances will count for a lot but he shares the same values as Langer as far as character is concerned.
“Runs and wickets are always going to be important, it’s a pretty good currency isn’t it, if you’re scoring them and taking them you’re always going to be in the mix but there’s so many other things that are important to being part of a team and part of a successful team. Some of those things I think Justin and Tim have been really strong on and Aaron [Finch] in the white-ball teams for Australia have been really strong on. Being a good person, being able to help your mates when you’re not doing so well, being able to celebrate others success are also important as well as obviously being able to perform.”