London: You always expect the unexpected in modern cricket. A country that has produced some of the greatest captains of the game, George Bailey may not match-up to the lofty standards set by a Ian Chappell, Mark Taylor, Allan Border or a Ricky Ponting, but reality sometimes throws you sudden challenges in life. Thirty-year-old Tasmanian Bailey is facing one such moment in his international career. Smarting under a humiliating 243-run defeat against India in a warm-up match in Cardiff earlier this week, Bailey will lead Australia in their ICC Champions Trophy opener against England in Birmingham on Saturday. Michael Clarke is out with a lower back pain.
Bailey has been Australia's T20 skipper but against England at Edgbaston, this will be Bailey first big test as a national team leader in the 50-over format. "I'm not under any more pressure than any other captain. First and foremost, my role is to score runs in that middle-order for us. If I can do that, we have enough guys and our players have played enough cricket to know the basics of the game.
"I'm not going to do anything as a captain that's going to revolutionize the game. It's all pretty basic stuff that we've got to do well and we've got to do better than the others. But first and foremost, my role is to score runs. So whether you're captain, vice-captain or whatever is next to your name, that doesn't change," Bailey said.
Australia are the defending champions and are aiming for hattrick of Champions Trophy titles. In the last one year, Aussies have not been in their best form. They have lost to India and England in the recent past and their 65 all out against India in Cardiff have raised doubts about their competence. England have even laughed at Australia's capitulation in Sophia Gardens.
Bailey admitted: "It's not an ideal preparation to get bowled out for 65. But we'll start on zero. Tomorrow, England will start on zero. How they prepare or how they take that is completely up to them."
Bailey added: "Honestly, I reckon all sides believe they can win the tournament. There is no doubt about that. In terms of a cricket spectacle, that must be really exciting for the fans around the globe knowing that your country is in with a real shot at winning the title. We're no different to anyone else for the last 12 months."
Australia, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka feature in group A while India, Pakistan, South Africa and the west Indies comprise what is reckoned as the Group Death.
Bailey said: "I think the biggest difference has been our consistency of performance. Our best is still as good as anyone else or any other teams in the world. If we play our best cricket, I've got no doubt we can win the tournament and we probably will win the tournament. But if we don't play our best, and that's been the issue, is the gap between our best and our worst performances has probably grown for most teams that have won the Champions Trophy in the past."
Bailey admits Australia will miss Michael Clarke. The solidity in the middle order has missed his experience. His absence, Bailey agrees, is a massive blow. "We'd love to have Pup with us as a batsman and as our captain. But it is what it is, and we have to deal with the fact that we don't have him for tomorrow. The challenge is there and the opportunity is there for the rest of us to step up, and I know it will be a great boost to the side to know that we can win without him. We had to do it quite a bit over the summer in the one-day format, so we know we can."