'The word that came up was legacy' - George Bailey

George Article 

George Bailey has highlighted the importance of the $28.7 million investment from players into ACA programs in yesterday's Australian Newspaper.

Speaking to Gideon Haigh on topics ranging from the nature of multi-format cricket, the mental health of players, female cricket and his own game; Bailey indicated that investments from the Player Partnership Fund and Player Payment Pool were important to the playing group.

Bailey, who was on the ACA Executive at the time the decisions regarding the investments was made, suggested that the players know they were in a fortunate position due to the generations of players before them.

"The word that came up through all the playing groups I was part of was legacy," said Bailey.

"There's that idea in cricket about wanting to leave the game better than you found it. We recognised that whilst having a World Cup was huge and a great boon, there were generations past and future who deserved to share in it."

"I thought it showed that we were serious about the game being stronger going forward, and had a commendable long-term vision.

Over the life of this MOU, the playing group have contributed $28.7 million dollars into programs which help fund the health and wellbeing of current and former players, help look after the grassroots development of cricket and ensure that players are given the best opportunity to succeed in their life after cricket.Bailey indicated that programs which focused on player wellbeing, were of specific interest to him.

"One of the things I am constantly on the lookout for is how guys are travelling," he says. "I'm not concerned with how they're hitting their cover drive or whether they're swinging the ball, but how they're coping with the pressures and uncertainties, and are they enjoying their cricket because it should be a really enjoyable time in your life.

"But I worry that there are young guys coming through for whom it won't be, and that they'll be spat out the end and left unprepared for the real world. I feel like we're so well-resourced now that players, particularly those identified early, lead such a structured upbringing that they never have to make a decision for themselves."

The Professional Development Program, which delivers education and training, career,health and wellbeing programs, assists players in this space as a co-funded program between the players and Cricket Australia.

The article touched on the perceived de-valuing of the Australian cap, especially in the shorter forms of the game where Bailey regularly presided over the shorter-form national teams. 

"It was one of my frustrations as captain of the T20 side too. There's only so many times you can hand caps out to guys telling them 'you've earned this, you deserve it, it's an honour', when you're doing that for three or four guys in the same game."

"It wears thin. The players know it. They're not stupid. Yet at the same time, the Australian cricket team is expected to win. Like it or lump it, that's what makes people follow the game."

The piece has formed part of a Gideon Haigh series on Australian domestic players in The Australian. The series can be found here.

 

FULL ARTICLE 

 

George Bailey has cricket in his blood. His great-great-grandfather represented Australia. He and his father are on the lookout for three volumes that will complete their sets of Wisdens. Yet five years ago, that lineage looked in danger.

Bailey had accumulated 5000 first class runs at a creditable average, led Tasmania to a Sheffield Shield and a Ford Ranger Cup. But he was also in his 30th year, had neither qualifications in his past nor certainty about his future. If national honours were not a possibility, he had also quietly committed to not lingering in the game for the sake of it.

Five years on, Bailey has represented his country more than 100 times in different cricket formats, leading it in one-day and T20 internationals: with the Test team in disarray, a powerful Sheffield Shield hundred last week could hardly have been more timely. He has appeared, too, for three English counties, three Indian Premier League franchises and two Big Bash League clubs.

Is he surprised? "Absolutely." The more so, perhaps, because self-belief has never been his strong suit: "I've found it very easy to look at someone else and say: 'Gee, he's a good player', while I can't see that in myself." Sometimes it shows. Few Australian batsmen are so handsome in full flight. There have also been phases of tentative introspection. A "lazy perfectionist" is his half-humorous self-description: "I like the idea of perfectionism, then I can't be bothered." But it's also a form of self-regulation, guarding against trying too hard or wanting too much: "I was first conscious of that in myself when I was young and playing tennis. The tournaments I really wanted to win were the ones in which I never performed."

To talk to Bailey, in fact, is to be reminded of the trickiness of modern multi-format batting, which can be missed in all the talk of fat bats and flat pitches. Bailey broke into white-ball cricket in January 2012 by excelling in red-ball cricket. But as he enhanced one set of skills, others deteriorated. In first class cricket he went from an average of 55 in 2011-12 to 18 in 2012-13.

"That was purely the weight of effort I was putting into white-ball cricket, while my first class games became more sporadic," Bailey says. He admires those players -- Virat Kohli, Dave Warner, AB de Villiers -- who adjust only minimally between formats. He is not, he believes, one of them.

In 2013, Bailey led Australia in a one-day international series in India, making twice as many runs as anyone else, averaging 95, and building a mandate for his selection in the subsequent Ashes series. He played all five Tests, but averaged a disappointing 26.

It figured. "I knew when I was picked to play Test cricket I wasn't playing all that well in the four-day format," Bailey says. "I was certainly working as hard as I could to rectify it, but I look back now, and it was such a simple technical issue I was having: what with the amount of white-ball cricket I was playing, I was trying to run good balls down to third man, which when there's four slips and a gully is generally not a great option. But you're not going to tell the selectors that, are you? 'Thanks for the opportunity, but I'm not batting particularly well at the moment!'." That Bailey has remained a short-form specialist since then actually belies his own preferences. He enjoys T20; he is amazed at the virtuosity of its most skilled practitioners, but it's four- and five-day cricket that stirs him.

"For me, it's much more significant," Bailey says. "I don't think I've ever walked off a T20 ground absolutely devastated or elated. It's a win or a loss, but so often it's down to one performance -- one person batted amazingly, we dropped that guy, he got 80 et cetera.

"It's also so difficult to make judgments -- to evaluate the guy who makes 20 off 20 in the middle versus the guy who makes 10 off two at the end. You can get to the end of a tournament and might have faced 20 balls. It's just so difficult to work out how you're going.

"With four-day cricket, Test match cricket, there's that ebb and flow. You can find a way back. You can knock a team over who are stronger, then you have to find a way to do it again when the wicket's better. Winning a Sheffield Shield, looking back on what you did right, where you were lucky -- that is still for me the ultimate satisfaction, and what I want desperately to achieve."

Bailey's respectable T20 record -- international strike rate 141, domestic 131 -- likewise belies what he feels are innate inhibitions. "How you play T20 is still a reflection of your inner cricketer," he says. "I've vowed to have seasons of T20 where I just go out and blaze the ball. Then I find myself in the contest, and I cannot play that way. I'm forever thinking: if I just wait one more over; if I just have a look at this bowler. And however much I try to play with complete freedom and go from ball one, that takes over."

Earlier this year, Bailey accepted a last-minute contract to replace an injured Faf du Plessis at Rising Pune Supergiants. It did not go well: "I was at the stage where I thought I wouldn't play IPL again, and I wasn't even sure I wanted to. Then on a whim I thought: 'I'll go. And I'll play the way I've always wanted to'. But after a month of not wearing shoes up at Noosa and not thinking about cricket, I was completely unprepared, and my instincts were to fight and survive and scrap. So my scores and strike rate were abysmal. And I was thinking at the end: 'You were so clear on the plane over about how you were going to play. You've ended up doing none of the things you wanted to'."

Filed now by selectors under the heading "batsman, ODIs", Bailey feels keenly about the format's curious status -- still the­ ­financial driver of international cricket, still the nearest to a determinant of champion status through the World Cup, yet the format most often derogated or downplayed.

"I think (ODI cricket) can be very meaningful still," he says. "The series against India last summer was a real spectacle, and that meant it mattered. I know we've been absolutely hammered in South Africa, but that didn't feel as meaningful, because I didn't understand where it fitted in the scene. It was very early in their season, felt squeezed in." Then there are the selection caprices: "That series in India in 2013, we played seven ODIs -- which is a ridiculous number. It ended up 2-2 going into the last with two washouts, and Cricket Australia took Mitch (Johnson) out of our team.

"I'm not having a go at the sports scientists. But it had been a really challenging series, we were missing a few senior players, and there we were, game seven, on the line, and our best chance of winning was taken away from us. It just deprived that series of all the meaning we'd built up.

"It was one of my frustrations as captain of the T20 side too. There's only so many times you can hand caps out to guys telling them 'you've earned this, you deserve it, it's an honour', when you're doing that for three or four guys in the same game ...

"It wears thin. The players know it. They're not stupid. Yet at the same time, the Australian cricket team is expected to win. Like it or lump it, that's what makes people follow the game." When short-form cricket did matter, during last year's World Cup, it was the standout moment of Bailey's career. He was anxious ahead of time, causing a dip in form: "It's the only time I've really, really wanted to be in a cricket team. In the lead-up I was thinking: 'How lucky to have a World Cup in your country, what an opportunity, I'm at the perfect age' And that really threw my cricket'."

Success then underpinned a desire among players to socialise that good fortune. Bailey was part of the executive of the Australian Cricketers Association that allocated $13 million of World Cup revenues to what will be a $28.7m investment in funding health, wellbeing and welfare programs for current players, past players, and those transitioning.

"The word that came up through all the playing groups I was part of was legacy," says Bailey. "There's that idea in cricket about wanting to leave the game better than you found it. We recognised that whilst having a World Cup was huge and a great boon, there were generations past and future who deserved to share in it."

How did Cricket Australia respond to this magnanimity? Bailey chooses his words carefully. "I didn't get the impression they were that happy about it. I thought it showed that we were serious about the game being stronger going forward, and had a commendable long-term vision. But I'm not sure CA saw it like that.

"When it was first floated, CA were quite strong in telling us where they thought our money should go, including to funding ­female cricket. There's obviously huge scope for growth there, but I found that interesting. All their literature was about pushing the female game. But they weren't, at that stage, backing that up with money. They expected the male players to pay for it, and tried to turn the male and female playing groups against each other, which we were disappointed about'."

Yet the ACA programs, says Bailey, address serious concerns -- including a fear he nurses, based largely on his observations as captain of Tasmania, that the game has grown so all-consuming as to impair enjoyment. "One of the things I am constantly on the lookout for is how guys are travelling," he says. "I'm not concerned with how they're hitting their cover drive or whether they're swinging the ball, but how they're coping with the pressures and uncertainties, and are they enjoying their cricket because it should be a really enjoyable time in your life.

"But I worry that there are young guys coming through for whom it won't be, and that they'll be spat out the end and left unprepared for the real world. I feel like we're so well-resourced now that players, particularly those identified early, lead such a structured upbringing that they never have to make a decision for themselves."

Enjoyment poses its own issues, meaningful to a 34-year-old who dropped out of an undergraduate commerce degree as his cricket expanded. Today Bailey is working slowly towards an MBA when cricket and a 10-month-old daughter permit: that decision about what comes next, deferred five years ago, cannot be staved off indefinitely. "The thing that scares me most is when people say: 'Oh, don't worry about life after cricket, because you'll be fine. You've captained cricket teams'. I just don't think the world works that way. You have to have a bit of a plan. And it scares me that I've loved something so much from such a young age.

"My fiancee often says: most people spend their lives trying to work up to their ambition. You found it at 18, and you now have to find something you'll be just as passionate about. That scares me more than what it is. I can picture myself doing lots of things post-cricket. But I can't imagine loving any of them like I've loved ­cricket."