A Gabba Test, a so-called good bloke making his debut at 30-plus, a sense of uncertainty about whether he will make it as a Test batsman – it could just as easily be last year’s build-up to the first Test against South Africa as this summer’s lead-up to the Ashes. But the debutant this time around, George Bailey, hopes his Test career will be longer than that of his counterpart from last year, Rob Quiney, and he has picked Quiney’s brains over the past few days for advice.
Quiney was thrust into the No. 3 position against Dale Steyn and Co., and was unable to reach double figures in any of his three innings in Brisbane or Adelaide, before being dropped to make way for the returning Shane Watson. The situation this year is a little different for Bailey, for he will come in lower down in the order – most likely No. 6 – and he is not standing in for an injured player, meaning a stable place in the side could be his if the runs flow.
But just like Quiney, Bailey knows that a couple of failures will have the selectors rethinking their decision, and that foray into the baggy green may be shorter than he would like. Bailey flew in to Brisbane on Sunday ahead of the first Test and said he had spoken to Quiney during the Sheffield Shield match between Tasmania and Victoria in Hobart, as well as to other Test players like Xavier Doherty and Matthew Wade, about how to handle the big moment.
“Having been around this side for a little bit I know what it’s like but I think this build-up is going to be completely different so there’s a sense of anticipation there and not really sure what it’s all going to be like,” Bailey told reporters in Brisbane. “But I’ve had the chance to talk to Bobby Quiney and Wadey and Xavier Doherty over the last few days and the overriding thing from them is just been to make sure you enjoy it and sometimes in these situations you have to remind yourself of that because there’s a lot going on.
“I wanted to talk to Bobby to see how his perspective was and see how he felt about his couple of Tests, how he dealt with the pressure and expectation externally and how he dealt with it himself. He’s a good man to talk to, such a terrific bloke and down to earth. It was a big adjustment. The main message from him was to make sure you enjoy it, which is the main message that past players have drilled into me. The way Bobby batted this week he’s back to his best which is great to see.”
George Bailey goes back to cut, Queensland v Tasmania, Sheffield Shield, Brisbane, 3rd day, November 8, 2013
Having already stepped up in the shorter formats over the past two years, George Bailey hopes he will be able to handle the atmosphere of Test cricket as well © Getty Images
Quiney was Man of the Match in Victoria’s win in Hobart for his 82 and 86, while Bailey had to settle for a couple of starts of 37 and 16, to add to the 34 and 41 he made against Queensland at Allan Border Field the previous week. They are not the kind of giant scores he posted during the one-day series in India, which made him impossible to overlook in the eyes of the selectors, but he is confident the adjustment back to the red ball has done him good in any case.
“I’ve felt pretty good the last couple of games,” Bailey said. “Obviously it’s going to be a pretty different wicket, the Gabba wicket compared to the two we’ve played on where bowleds and lbws were the preferred mode of dismissal, so it will be good to get on something with more bounce.
“I’ve enjoyed having a couple of games and getting in nets and getting used to different tempo, that’s as big an adjustment as anything, but it was nice to play those games. I’m still feeling really good, a bit frustrated I haven’t been able to go on with starts but in terms of how I’m feeling and hitting the ball, couldn’t be happier.”
At 31, Bailey will be the oldest batsman to make his Test debut for Australia in 34 years, since Jeff Moss was handed a baggy green during the World Series Cricket rift. Having already stepped up in the shorter formats at international level over the past two years, Bailey hopes he will be able to handle the atmosphere of Test cricket as well, but knows it will be a vastly different occasion to anything he has experienced before.
“I’m not sure being older makes it easier but I think having played the other formats, in terms of with crowd build-up, media stuff, that will be a little bit easier to handle,” Bailey said. “The advantage of being 31…you only get one crack at it, so I’ll go out there, I’ll be me. I’ll play the way I play and I won’t go out trying to be anything but myself. And that’s a good thing.”