Tim Paine exhibited character which the Australians are famous for….
When Australian team landed in South Africa last month, one hoped to watch a closely-fought Test series between two of the best sides in the world. Australia were coming off a superb 4-0 win in the Ashes, while South Africa, World No. 2 side were ready to challenge their poor record of never beating Australia in a Test series at home. The contest was supposed to be between the two arguably best bowling attacks in the world right now, but what turned out to be was something forgettable. The series has been marred with one after another controversy, right from Test No. 1 at Durban.
Nobody in their dreams had thought that even before the series ended Australia would lose its captain, deputy and an opening batsman. Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft accepted the accusations of ball tampering in the Cape Town Test. and have returned to Australia. Cricket Australia has slammed Warner and Smith with a year’s ban each, while Bancroft with a nine-month ban. They can neither play international nor state cricket. Meanwhile, the board has made it’s wicketkeeper Tim Paine the captain for the remainder of South Africa.
The past couple of weeks have been the most emotionally drained time period for the Australians since the death of their dear teammate and friend Phil Hughes in November, 2014. Ahead of the fourth Test, Darren Lehmann announced that he would step down as Australia’s head coach at the end of the Johannesburg Test. Making it worse, Australia lost their best bowler Mitchell Starc because the former suffered a stress factor. That meant, Australia were without their best batsmen and bowler in Lehmann’s farewell Test. Suddenly, there was no fear factor, no stars and little extraordinary talent.
If there was a lack of any extraordinary talent, they would go on to witness a story that would turn out to be extraordinary. Tim Paine – the man, who was inches close to retirement a few months ago, was now a full-time candidate in the Australian Test side, an Ashes winner and now Australia’s 46th Test captain too. His story easily was the standout among any cricketing stories we have heard recently. And guess what, the Tasmanian began his reign by doing something unusual. In cricket matches, the players of the two teams shake hands after the end of the match. But, the fourth Test witnessed a new tradition in cricket.
Since the Test series had turned into a bitter-fought contest, Paine thought by shaking hands with the South Africans after the national anthem would be a nice intent to show the sportsmanship. “I’ve been watching [sports channel] SuperSport this week and they’ve had the soccer on and I notice they do that every game and I thought cricket is the gentleman’s game,” Paine said. This was an ace step from the new captain. He spoke to his counterpart, Faf du Plessis in prior and both agreed on the idea.
Going back to the 1980s, Australia had lost three of their stars, Greg Chappell, Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee, to retirement at the same time and suddenly Australia were left with no supremacy and the power to dominate the world cricket anymore. That’s when they took a step towards Allan Border, who turned out to be their best batsman, incredible brains of cricket, who single-handedly took Australia back to the top, conquering against the best attacks of the world.
Maybe, Paine is not alike Border as a batsman, he sure has shown glimpses to open a new chapter in Australian cricket. When you look at Paine, you find the aura and pride of being an Australia cricketer; when he walks into the field wearing the Baggy Green in his Australian whites with collar high, you find sightings of the older Australian cricketers in him. He looks self-assured on the field and dangling the right body language and you just cannot deny that he carries the glimpses of Australianism. Bringing in more clarity, Australianism means “single-minded determination to win – to win within the laws, but if necessary, to the last limit within them.”
After South Africa scored 488 in the first innings, the pacing duo of Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada reduced Australia to 90 for 4 before Morne Morkel, who was playing his last Test for South Africa, chipped in as well with the wicket of Mitchell Marsh.
That’s when Paine stepped in. What we call, “Captain leading from the front,” Paine showed that on day three of the Johannesburg Test on Sunday. Despite being mentally and physically drained out, he knew it was his responsibility to pull his team out of the mess and that’s exactly what he did. Just when South Africa thought they would bowl Australia out early on the third day, Paine with Pat Cummins piled up 99 runs for the seventh wicket, Australia’s biggest partnership of the series.
What made the stand more significant was the fact that Paine batted for more than three hours with a hairline fracture in his right thumb as he marched to his fourth Test half-century and frustrated the hell out of the hosts. When he was just a short of fifty, he smashed a six over mid-wicket off Keshav Maharaj’s ball and that shot was synonymous with the innings he had played for Australia during crunch situations – elegant, fearless and top-notch. It needed an equivalent top-grade effort from a fielder to dismiss Paine.
The skipper cleared Rabada over mid-off, Dean Elgar zoomed with the ball to complete an incredible catch, which was termed as a “catch of the century.” Paine, with his knock off 62 off 96, including seven fours and two sixes certainly was not enough to win the Test but he might have saved Australia from its third loss in the Test series.