He may have only played one match in the whole tournament but George Bailey still made two key contributions to Australia’s glorious 2015 World Cup campaign.
The first unleashed the man who would be Australia’s top run-scorer for the tournament. The second found a new way to use Australia’s most frightening fast bowler.
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While Bailey found himself outside of Australia’s best XI for almost the entirety of the World Cup, he was a key figure throughout the build-up, captaining the side regularly in the absence of the injured Michael Clarke.
During Steve Smith’s early years he had been used largely at six or seven in the one-day set-up.
It was only in September 2014 during a tour of Zimbabwe that he got pushed up to first drop under the captaincy of Bailey, who recognised Mitchell Marsh was better suited batting in the middle-order after briefly using him at No.3.
“I made a suggestion that it should be Steve Smith (at three) because at that time Mitch could, and still can, bludgeon the ball, but I couldn’t see him batting for the full innings, where I could see ‘Smudger’ (Smith) batting for 50 overs, making those key hundreds that you could bat around,” Bailey said on cricket.com.au’s Unplayable Podcast, while noting Smith likely would have made the move up the order eventually anyway.
“That recommendation was taken up and that played a huge part – Smudger was three right throughout the World Cup and hasn’t moved since.”
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Smith went on to be Australia’s highest run-scorer, making 402 at 67.00, only failing to pass 50 twice in his seven innings. He now averages 53.35 in the position, with all but one of his nine centuries coming there.
The second change Bailey made in the lead-up to the tournament was convincing veteran seamer and pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson that he could have more of an impact as first-change bowler, giving up the new ball for rising stars Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.
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“I think Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Starc both probably swung the ball a bit more than Mitch (Johnson) did at that stage with the white ball and I’ve thought swing at the start of a one-day game was key,” Bailey said.
“There might be days where they might only bowl two overs, but for a fast bowler, particularly one like Mitch, that psyche of taking the new ball is quite big.
“So that took quite a bit of time for him to understand if those two guys can get us off to a good start and then you come on – put yourself in the batter’s shoes, you get through the two opening bowlers and then you’ve got to deal with Mitchell Johnson.”
Johnson’s best performances at the tournament came as first change bowler, taking 12 wickets at 15 runs apiece, compared to two at 65 with the new ball.