IT'S hard to believe, but there was a time when George Bailey was about as popular among the mainland media as Brenton Best is among the Greens Party.
Or the Labor Party for that matter.
A succession of articles, emerging from the same insightful scribes who lobbied for the retirement of Ricky Ponting, criticised the latter Tasmanian captain's statistics and suggested he was lucky to be in the national Twenty20 side, let alone captaining it.
``Trouble is, Bailey is the best Australia have got'' lamented Cricinfo in June.
It reported a consensus that Bailey ``isn't much of a batsman,'' ``was one of the mad professor's gambles'' and had become ``a punch line for a cricket system that was failing on many levels.''
Its author, Jarrod Kimber, said reporters at the Champions Trophy one-dayer against England at Edgbaston had debated the subject at length.
``Today in the press box, there was talk that he was the worst batsman of any Australian captains since the Packer era,'' he said.
The piece dissected the failures of Australia's other batsmen: Shane Watson and David Warner had worse strike rates, Phil Hughes looked ``completely out of his depth,'' Matthew Wade was ``disappointing,'' Mitchell Marsh ``doesn't look right,'' Adam Voges recovering from ``a comically bad run'' and Michael Clarke ``injured.''
It concluded Bailey was ``the best of a very poor bunch'' adding: ``He's the best they have to work with. And that is the major problem.''
The article was not a one-off. Continuing what Kimber himself called a ``recurring theme,'' The Age had long questioned Bailey's productivity and national appointment writing: ``In bestowing the captaincy on Bailey when his form does not warrant it, selectors have increased both the pressure on him and the possibility that three consecutive Australian Twenty20 skippers will depart in bad circumstances.''
It was a good job that Bailey either did not read this stuff, or was nowhere near a noose or a sharp knife when he did.
The former South Launceston batsman has gone on to score more runs in his first 31 ODI innings than any other Australian batsman. He averages 53.03 while his last seven innings have produced scores of 82, 87, 4, 85, 92*, 43, and 98 - 491 runs at an average of 81.83, and a strike rate of 107.
While any article in the Tasmanian media pointing out these facts could be conveniently dismissed as parochialism, the well-informed mainland media have largely turned their focus to a succession of pleas for Mitchell Johnson's Test recall.
But credit to Cricinfo, whose stats editor S. Rajesh this week highlighted Bailey's form in a detailed analysis of stats ``which have turned him from an also-ran into Australia's most important cog in their ODI batting wheel.''
It appears Bailey is still the best Australia has got.