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Feb 1 – In praise of Captain George Bailey

Aboriginals used to live in Tasmania. So did Errol Flynn, Princess Mary and Joseph Lyon. A couple of retired cricketers still live there, out of the mainstream. A friend says they are so isolated they may as well live in New Zealand or Denmark. Many do. Mainlanders think that if Australia is the arse end of the world, then Tasmania is the end in the arse, which starts in Melbourne and covers all Victoria.

For all that, George Bailey is pretty much straight up and down. Well almost. He comes from Launceston and walks with a slight stoop. It is nothing untoward. His teacher said he always walked in thought.

He loves playing cricket; cricket is his thing. His great great grandfather George Herbert Bailey toured with the Australian side in 1878 so cricket runs in the genes. And the Australian shirt, just like Captaincy, sits easily on his shoulders, win or lose, as on any of the other captains in his World Cup team.

His first international game in T20 was as Captain – one of only two Australians to have done so. His leadership of the ODI side is due to seasonal injury to Captain Clarke. Captaincy is his career. In a self-mocking way he says he is blessed to be surrounded by captains. Anyone who has been so completely surrounded for so long, or suffers from enochlophobia, understands this sentiment. There are more serving captains on the field than off it. Not that he cares so much. For him, shorting a captain (or three) is preferable to being short a bowler or a batsman when you need one. Captains are a dime a dozen whereas trustworthy run machines or wicket takers are as rare as a ha’penny bit. George averages 44.5 in the 50 over game. (He is underscoring at the moment but who isn’t?)

Does he get frustrated or annoyed? No one has ever heard him use those words. The way he sees it he has little influence over what players do. He can set the field and choose who to bowl. After that, everything is out of his hands. He is as much surprised by events as a bucket-headed spectator beyond the pickets in the stands, or the Coach in the players rooms.

There is no room for frustration or annoyance. There is always something afoot whether it be a finger up the nose, ball tampering, dodgy calls or pet pythons in the showers. The way he figures it, any minute spent ruminating existentially on an event just gone (which might be doubted, for a man like him spends his time reading Sartre or talking to people), is time wasted. What is done cannot be undone. The present is everything. There is simply no time for anything else. This explains his easy banter with the media. He is happy to answer any question at any time about match tactics because the answer is redundant as soon as it is uttered.

Yet he is modest. Sure, he might forfeit his position in the team for Captain Clarke at the appointed time, or at any other time. Others will make that decision. George understands how the politics of cricket is played. He prefers to play it risk free, in the middle, in his own understated way.

He thinks sledging is pointless as a tactic and mostly witless, a view not held by everyone. George would prefer to be doing something more productive, for example encouraging stump to stump bowling.

And yet if George had one wish… he might wish to be captain free, to kick a ha’penny down the grate. Voodoo dolls are not his thing, but he is not beyond ladders, shoe glue, and black cats to end the soap opera of an injured Captain trying to join a World Cup squad. This saga has lasted longer than a double season of Desperate Housewives. George wouldn’t know about that. He takes more delight in Stephen Fry’s QI.

The late mail says Pup won’t make it back anyway. Sure, Pup played a grade game on a local oval in Chatswood, Sydney – let’s call it an ‘exhibition(ist’s) game’ – in gentle autumnal conditions. He took 3 hours to score 50 and then finished it off with a media interview saying how good he felt. Why didn’t he just text Coach Lehmann and tell him? Maybe no one wants to know, except the burger flippers on Channel 9 who love him and are telling everyone he will be back. Who knows.

Anyway, George won’t be sweating on it. It’s nothing he can control. He would rather play cricket.

That is George. An odd name for a cricketer but not so odd for a Tasmanian.

***

There are few apologists for George Bailey; more than for Sir Ravindra Jadeja but far fewer than for Shane Watson. The bet was to place George in context. Job done.

I heard Australia won the tri-series final against England in Perth. No surprise really. Captain Morgan left a straight one that hit his stumps.

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