It was a usual Thursday afternoon until Australian media broke a bombshell on the social media. The news went by these lines – “Tim Paine set for shock Ashes recall.” From there on mixed reviews began to pour about Cricket Australia’s alleged decision and mostly, the opinions were against the 32-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman. Paine, who made his debut in 2009, has played only four Tests for Australia and that was back in 2010. A few years ago, Paine suffered a finger injury in a charity game and that seemed as though a promising career had been dashed.
If Paine is roped in for the first Test in Gabba, he will replace his Tasmanian teammate and Australian incumbent Matthew Wade as the side’s keeper-batsman, ahead of New South Wales gloveman Peter Nevill. The news about Paine might get picked ended up seeming whammy because let alone the fact that Paine is not the regular wicketkeeper-batsman in Sheffield Shield, the last time he entered triple digits in domestic circuit was in 2006. To make the situation look hilariously ridiculous for the Aussie fans and journalists. even the current Australian head coach, Darren Lehman, has a more recent hundred in Sheffield Shield (2007) than Paine.
In 91 First-Class games, Paine has scored 4,077 runs at a below-par average of 29.12. His century from 2006 remains his only three-digit scores in the domestic circuit but he has 26 fifties as some consolation, if that can be counted. Paine was given only four and three matches in 2015-16 and 2016-17 Sheffield Shield seasons and as a result he ended up with 42 and 130 runs respectively. Moreover, in the last two seasons of Shield, Paine has kept wickets for a total of three times.
The real story of the Tim Paine selection is that the Australian team is horribly flawed, and there are no easy fixes. Doesn't mean they won't win the Ashes, but they clearly have massive problems over their batting/keeping.
— Jarrod Kimber (@ajarrodkimber) November 16, 2017
If Paine indeed is recalled for the Ashes Test, it would certainly be one of the most unbelievable turn of fortunes in the recent times in the cricketing world. Earlier this year, Paine was on the verge of retiring and moving to Melbourne to take up a job with cricket manufacturer Kookaburra before a surprise contract extension with Tasmania gave him a lifeline.
However, he did not have the best of the starts to the season when he was ignored for the first two rounds before he was picked for Tasmania’s match against Victoria. But, he was not given the gloves and was seen standing on the slip, next to Tasmania’s preferred keeper Wade for most of Victoria’s batting.
So, when people have raised questions like “when he is not even his state’s first keeper, why pick him for the crucial Ashes?,” it is quite understandable.
What have Wade/Nevill done so far in the domestic season?
After spending the past 10 years with Victoria, Wade rejoined his state Tasmania this year but he has not managed to get past his struggling phase with the bat. When Wade began this season in Shield, he was well aware of the fact that he would be under the selectors’ radar while at the crease or behind the wickets. In the three matches where he has batted in five innings, Wade has registered 38 runs at an awful average of 7.60. Pushing his life to a more difficult situation, Wade has not been able to fix his keeping issues too.
Since the start of 2007, Tim Paine has as many first-class hundreds as T-Pain #Ashes pic.twitter.com/PjsSwEWbKd
— Vithushan Ehantharajah (@Vitu_E) November 16, 2017
One of the most noticeable errors was when he missed the sitter off the edge of Queensland captain Usman Khawaja. Going a couple of months back when Australia toured Bangladesh for a two-Test series, in the first Test in Dhaka, Wade performed atrociously behind the stumps. He gave away 30 byes to the batting team and then it was probably for the first time ever when a group of fans signed a petition on change.org to remove Wade from the national side.
Ashes selection bombshell. Peter Nevill is not picked. Tim Paine will play Brisbane. Stunning …
— Peter Lalor (@plalor) November 16, 2017
The man who was expected to push Wade aside to bag the Ashes place, Peter Nevil, has equally fared badly with the bat. When he was axed from the Australian XI last summer, that seemed unjust. Nevil went on to prove that it indeed was cruel on the selectors by dominating the remainder of the Shield season with 611 runs at 68.89. Unfortunately for the New South Wales keeper-batsman, he has failed to carry that form into the current season. In three matches, he has only scored 80 runs at 26.66.
Who knew a 2 FC fifties would lead Tim into Ashes?
Meanwhile, Paine’s comeback match for Tasmania suddenly seemed like a disaster when he was dismissed for a duck in the first innings. But then he fought back in the second and is 71 not out against Victoria, which is more than Wade’s scores put together in his last five innings.
Tim Paine tipped as Ashes wicketkeeper? Hasn't made a first-class hundred since 2006. Has kept wicket in 3 Shield games in past 2 years. Extraordinary. https://t.co/iuTRZvi7FA
— Brydon Coverdale (@brydoncoverdale) November 16, 2017
Before this, Paine led Cricket Australia XI in the second tour match against England and scored a gritty half-century against an English attack that was inclusive of James Anderson, Chris Woakes and Jake Ball. In the course of the half-century, he helped himself to five boundaries, including one six. And before that, he took a sharp catch, an edge of Jonny Bairstow against a quicker and caught a flat ball from young leg-spinner Daniel Fallins. He took another three catches in the second innings and throughout the match, Paine ensured England did not earn a bye run.
Brisbane track is expected to aid pacers a lot of bounce and during such conditions, Wade would tend to struggle behind the wickets, by giving away bye runs. If Australia do give a green signal to Paine for the Brisbane Test, it will purely be based on this, “If there’s a keeper making consistent runs then pick him. If not, select the best gloveman. Tim Paine naturally in the frame if that’s the philosophy.”
If there's a keeper making consistent runs then pick him.. If not, select the best gloveman.
Tim Paine naturally in the frame if that's the philosophy.
— Alister Nicholson (@AlisterNicho) November 16, 2017
This tweet clearly explained that the idea of picking Paine might not be that bad, after all. In the four Tests he played in 2010, he averaged 35.87, which is way better than his First-Class average. When Test cricket originated in the 19th century, the teams opted for a player who was a pure wicketkeeper, regardless of his batting abilities. That trend went on for a very long time; however, in the modern era, teams prefer to have an all-rounder keeper who can score runs too. Wicketkeeping is an art in itself like batting and bowling are. A keeper who can score runs consistently is always a plus point but what if the player is neither keeping properly nor scoring? And when you have a cricketer who is highly regarded for his wicketkeeping skills, he surely deserves a chance.