The going is getting tough for Tim Paine…..
Ever since his return to international cricket, Tim Paine has had a mixed stint with the Australian cricket team. Tipped to be second in line behind Brad Haddin as early as 2009, Paine had to miss out on a place in the national side due to injuries and as a result, Matthew Wade got a shot. However, that did not deter Paine, who did considerably well in the domestic circuit. He may not have scored big for Tasmania, but his wicketkeeping abilities ensured that he gets picked, at a time when Wade was neither contributing with the bat nor was he particularly a safe bet behind the wickets.
What is more remarkable is that lack of playing opportunities for Tasmania had prompted Paine to retire from the game altogether. Tasmania coach Adam Griffith and CEO Nick Cummins convinced the wicketkeeper-batsman to keep going and that paid dividends. Paine’s selection raised a few eyebrows – especially for a player who neither kept wickets nor did was he a regular in the Tasmania squad. However, he has vindicated his selection by scoring those gritty 30s and 40s down the order to go with his safe hands behind the wickets.
In the Ashes 2017-18 – his comeback into the Test arena – Paine scored 192 runs from 6 innings at 48. Not just that, he took 25 catches and inflicted one stumping in the 5 Tests he played.
Paine had one year left in his contract with Tasmania prior to his comeback. After retirement, he was considering taking up a job with Kookaburra. But by the end of that contract, he had earned a call-up into the Australian team and he has grabbed that opportunity with both hands.
He was part of the Australian side that thrashed England 4-0 to regain The Ashes, but his team’s form in the ODIs has never been up to the mark. The took a beating at the hands of England at their own backyard. However, Australia did not have time to reflect on the disappointing ODI series and had to quickly prepare for the Test series in South Africa.
Regardless of their standards dipping in ODIs, Australia were a top Test side and that’s what they set out to prove once again in the Rainbow Nation. Despite altercations between David Warner and Quinton de Kock, it turned out to be an excellent game and Australia went on to win the match by 118 runs.
South Africa bounced back immediately in the next match with a thumping 6-wicket win at Port Elizabeth. However, as we neared the third Test at Cape Town, Australia cricket had changed forever.
Captain Steven Smith and his deputy David Warner admitted to ball tampering and were later on handed a one-year ban Cricket Australia. The man who executed the plan on the field, Cameron Bancroft was banished from the game for 9 months. There were no clear-cut options as to who will lead the Australian side in these dark phases. The Australian selectors decided to hand Paine the captaincy. He is Australia’s 46th Test captain and only the third Tasmanian after Ricky Ponting and George Bailey to lead Australia, across formats.
Just a year ago, Paine was willing to walk away from the game, but he was now named the captain of Australia. Even Paine in his wildest dreams wouldn’t have imagined that. In his first Test as permanent captain, Paine – in a bid to perhaps Australia cricket’s image – decided that he will shake hands before the game. Faf du Plessis obliged and that tradition has been carried on in this ODI series against England as well. This is not one is used to seeing from Australia, who have always been ruthless, aggressive and have played ‘in your face’ cricket over many years. This is a small gesture from Paine and is a breath of fresh air indeed.
Paine-led Australia suffered a crushing defeat at Johannesburg and in his first ODI series as captain, he has already lost the series, but has a couple of games left to salvage some pride. However, one need not be too harsh on the rookie captain as he does not have the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins amongst others at his disposal.
Paine has captained Australia A, Tasmania at age group levels and also led his nation in the ICC Under-19 World Cup in 2004. But leading Australia at the highest level has by far been his biggest test. He comes across as an intense and mature person and player, but sadly, he has not been able to turn that into results thus far. Paine has opened the batting for Tasmania and Australia U-19 on many occasions. It might not be a bad idea for him to go higher up the order – even open the innings – which might work wonders. There’s no better way of making a statement than leading from the front. Things cannot much worse for Australia from here. They are ranked 6th in the ICC ODI rankings – which is their worst in three decades. A bit of experimentation or bold moves might work in Paine’s favour.