Euro 2020 Special
 

Former Australian Captain Tim Paine Returns to Top Class Cricket

Introduction

Former Australian captain Tim Paine has ended his indefinite break from top class cricket.

He was selected for a Tasmanian XI for a Sheffield Shield match against Queensland, starting Thursday in  Brisbane, where he has been picked as both wicketkeeper and batter. His first day back was mixed in terms of results. He made just six with the bat before he was caught off the bowling of Gurinder Sandhu.

However, after his side were dismissed for just 147, he did catch Queensland opener Matt Renshaw off the bowling of Riley Meredith before close of play.

Now 37 year old, Paine had taken an indefinite break from the sport after he was engulfed in a scandal shortly before the Ashes tour of England last summer. However, after taking an extended mental health break, he returned to training full-time to regain his fitness, and says that he is now ready to resume his career.

 

Sexting

Paine stepped down from his role with Australia after admitting his part in a lewd text exchange with a female employee of Cricket Tasmania which involved the pair sending each other in appropriate messages and images. That was despite the fact that Paine was married at the time (and remains so).

A formal investigation by Cricket Australia subsequently cleared the player of any wrongdoing.

The irony is that he owned his appointment to the job of Australian skipper in the first place to another scandal. During the Third Test against South Africa at Newlands, Cape Town in March 2018, Australian batter Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera using a piece of disguised sandpaper to try and alter the shape of the ball and make it swing in flight.

It subsequently transpired that then Australian skipper Steve Smith and his deputy, David Warner, were aware of what Bancroft was doing in and may have put him up to it. All three were banned from first class cricket.

Paine was appointed captain to succeed Smith, in part because he was seen as a safe pair of hands and had a clean image, one that has subsequently become tarnished.

 

He almost quit the sport before

Although by 2011 Paine had played in four Tests and 26 ODIs for Australia, he then suffered a finger injury playing in an exhibition match that was to have disastrous consequences for him in the short-term.

Six failed operations to try and mend the broken finger ensued, and it took him several years to get fully fit again.

In 2016, his State side Tasmania dropped him, and, after getting married and having a child, he decided that his priorities had changed and that cricket was no longer the most important thing in his life.

He had even accepted a job offer from a cricket equipment manufacturer and moved his family to Melbourne ready to take up his new post, only for Tasmania CEO Tim Cummins intervening and helped to change his mind.

In November 2017 he earned his international recall after a seven year absence, equalling the Australia record for the longest time between tests for an Australian player.

Selected in the fifteen man squad to tour Australia, it meant he was in the right place and the right time when the Sandpapergate controversy erupted.

 

A modest performer

In truth Paine was always a modest international performer for his team, making just over 1,500 runs in his 35 tests at an average of 32.63. He did manage 9 fifties and had a top score of 92, but was not in the same class of batter as other Australian great keepers like Adam Gilchrist or Rodney Marsh. He also took 150 catches and claimed 7 stumpings.

 

Captaincy

With Paine as captain, Australia played 23 tests and they won 11 of them. He also led them in five ODIs although never finished on the winning team in any of them.

On his resignation, Pat Cummins succeeded him as test skipper, whilst Aaron Finch assumed leadership of the team in white ball cricket, subsequently leading them to success in the 2021 T20I World Cup.

It is very unlikely he will ever play for his country again, given his age. However, after all that he has been through, just playing again may be enough for Paine in itself.

 

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