Form worries and David Warner off-field incidents continue to define side’s Champions Trophy.
Stand-in captain George Bailey has insisted leading Australia during the Champions Trophy tournament in the UK has been a “dream come true” despite the distractions of the David Warner affair.
The 30-year-old Tasmanian, already Australia’s Twenty20 skipper, has found himself in charge of the one-day side while regular captain Michael Clarke has been sidelined with a recurrence of his longstanding back problem.
Bailey responded by top-scoring for defending champions Australia with 55 in their tournament-opening defeat by England at Edgbaston and made the same score in their no result washout with New Zealand when they returned to the Birmingham ground on Wednesday.
In between those fixtures it emerged Warner had attacked England’s Joe Root in a Birmingham bar in the early hours of Sunday morning — something Bailey tried to brush aside as a “very minor incident”.
Nevertheless, Warner was suspended until the start of the Ashes by Cricket Australia on Thursday and fined Aus$11,500 ($11,000, £7,000).
However, the controversial opener will be available for the first Ashes Test against England in Nottingham, which starts on July 10.
Bailey, asked if leading Australia in a major international tournament in England had been everything he dreamed it would be so far, replied: “Every day brings something different and something unique, and something that’s sometimes challenging, sometimes enjoyable, sometimes a bit of both.
“Absolutely it is, it’s a dream come true, really.”
Bailey though cannot wait for Clarke’s return and is hopeful the star batsman will be fit to face Sri Lanka at The Oval on Monday in the last game in Group A — a match Australia must win to have any chance at all of reaching the Champions Trophy semi-finals.
“I’m pretty anxious for ‘Pup’ (Clarke) to come back. As a cricketer and as a leader, I think it will be good for this team to have him back,” said Bailey.
“I know I’ve said it every game, but I’m hopeful for the next game. But this time we’re certainly looking like we’re having him for Monday.”
Meanwhile Clarke himself denied reports that all-rounder Shane Watson approached Australia coach Mickey Arthur because he was unhappy with the way he handled the Warner incident.
According to Australia’s Channel Nine television former vice-captain Watson, one of four players dropped for a Test against India in March for failing to produce a written response to Arthur’s request for feedback on how the team could improve, accused the South African of double standards.
Channel Nine suggested it was Watson’s complaint that led to Warner, who was left out of the New Zealand match as officials pondered their next move, being suspended until the Ashes.
But Clarke, speaking after Australia training at The Oval on Friday, denied Watson had approached Arthur about Warner.
“Shane certainly didn’t take up with Mickey that he had a problem with how we as a leadership group dealt with it,” Clarke said.
“That allegation is completely false.”
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland labelled Warner’s behaviour “despicable” and Clarke said it was wrong for players to be drinking in public after a defeat.
“I think what James has certainly said, and I will echo, after losing a game like we did against England, to be out at that hour celebrating or carrying on like we were celebrating, especially with the opposition, is probably not the right time or place to be having a few drinks,” he said.
“A big part of why you loving playing cricket for Australia is because you celebrate your success, you work hard together as a team, but when you do well you do celebrate together, but you need to have a reason to celebrate and right now we certainly haven’t got that.”