BIG INTERVIEW: Preston-born Lancashire fast bowler Tom Bailey tells Craig Salmon that he still dreams of an England call-up

Tom Bailey affords himself a wry smile when he reflects on his status as one of the leading lights in the Lancashire dressing room.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 25th March 2022, 4:45 pm
Updated Saturday, 26th March 2022, 8:22 am

“Overnight” – is the first word which springs to the fast bowler’s mind when he considers how he has gone from the young, shy, slightly reticent character at Old Trafford to the person who was asked to take over from the unavailable Dane Vilas for a short stint as Red Rose captain last year.

Approaching his 31st birthday next month, Preston lad Bailey is no longer the new kid on the block wondering if he truly belongs on the county circuit

Earmarked as somebody with enormous potential growing up as a fast bowler for amateur club Vernon Carus in his teens, Bailey graduated from the academy programme at Old Trafford to earn a scholarship in 2011.

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TAUNTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26: Tom Bailey of Lancashire Lightning appeals unsuccessfully for the LBW of Will Smeed of Somerset during the Vitality T20 Blast Quarter Final match between Somerset CCC and Lancashire Lightning at The Cooper Associates County Ground on August 26, 2021 in Taunton, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

With household names such as James Anderson and Glen Chapple – men he had grown-up watching as a kid and amongst a host of other well-known names in the bowling department at Old Trafford – the former Myerscough College student felt like a very small fish in a very big pond.

Despite making his First Class debut at the end of the summer in 2012 against Surrey at Aigburth, in Liverpool, Bailey’s formative years in a Red Rose jersey were uncertain, especially as he struggled earn selection for second XI, while injuries also hindered his progress.

But with age comes maturity, and Bailey has certainly developed into the player that his potential demanded.

In 2018, he was the leading wicket-taker in the top division of the County Championship with 64 victims and although the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown an unexpected spanner in the works, he still boasts an impressive 257 First Class victims at a little over 23 apiece over the course of his career.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 06: James Anderson of England bowls during day two of the Fourth Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 06, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The tall quickie has had to, over the last few years, to get accustomed to being the man that the younger players look up to in the dressing room.

"It seems to just happen overnight,” revealed Bailey. “One minute you’re the new kid on the block and then the next minute you’re the second oldest in the team.

"When I was made captain last season, I really enjoyed it – it was good.

"I captained in the one-dayers because Dane got called up for The Hundred.

CANTERBURY, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: Tom Bailey of Lancashire bowls during Day Two of the LV= Insurance County Championship match between Kent and Lancashire at The Spitfire Ground on April 23, 2021 in Canterbury, England. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

"It was a great experience for me. It was a real honour to lead the team out on to the field. We got so close to making the knockout stages but it just wasn’t to be.

"Being captain is definitely something I would do again in the future if the opportunity arose.

"It was completely different for me. I was used to just bowling my overs and then I would go down to fine leg and chill out.

"When you’re captain, you literally have to be switched on for the whole game. You do learn so much about the game because you can’t switch off.

"You’re constantly thinking about who you have to bowl next and everything else which goes with being captain.

"It was a learning curve for me but I have definitely benefited from it.”

When Bailey topped the County Championships wicket-taking list four years ago, there was speculation that an England call could follow.

While that didn’t materialise, he was selected for the England Lions squad, but unfortunately an injury hampered him for much of the summer in 2019 and then the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out the entire season in 2020.

Last year, Bailey was a key figure at Old Trafford and took career best figures of 7-37 in the penultimate fixture of the season against Hampshire at Aigburth.

Despite the fact that he has now entered his fourth decade, he believes his peak years are still ahead and he has not given up hope of earning England selection.

"I always feel like I have got plenty of things to improve on,” said Bailey.

“The moment you start thinking that you’ve made it and done enough, then that’s dangerous.

"I know there’s things in my game that I can work on and I will continue to do that until the day I finish playing. I hope I have few years left in me. You only have to look at Jimmy Anderson – he’s 40-years-old – but is still so keen to get back in the England team.

"There’s people like Glen Chapple and Graham Onions who all played into their late 30s.

"My ultimate goal is to get called up by England. When you look at players like Scott Boland, he made his Test debut at 32-years-old, so that still gives me that little bit of hope that if I keep putting in the performances, I will get that call-up one day.

"I did get selected for the Lions in 2019 but I underwent a knee operation that year so didn’t play a lot.

"Then Covid came which was disappointing because I was in a good place.

"Last year was the first proper season since Covid and I feel like I continued where I finished in 2018, so all I can do is keep putting in the performances.”