Ashes 2017-18: Tim Paine looks to silence critics after bouncing back from career-threatening injury

Paine has taken all the criticism in his stride, and hopes he can now seize his chance to realise his potential after his ghastly finger injury.

AFP, Nov, 22 2017

Brisbane: Eight pins and a metal plate in his right index finger bear testament to the once-stalled cricket career of Australia wicketkeeper Tim Paine, who will make a surprise return to the national side on Thursday after his shock selection for the Ashes.

The Tasmanian's recall to the Australian Test team for the first time in seven years for Thursday's opener with England was greeted with widespread disbelief.

Australia's Tim Paine plays a shot during the second Test against India in Bangalore in October, 2010. Reuters

Australia's Tim Paine plays a shot during the second Test against India in Bengaluru in October, 2010. Reuters

It's been 78 Tests since Paine last wore the baggy green Australia cap, after a terrible finger injury almost ended the 32-year-old gloveman's flourishing career.

Paine was once hailed as Australia's next big thing, a rising wicketkeeper-batsman who had the potential to captain his country.

But he smashed his finger while batting in an exhibition match in 2010. It caused him to lose his spot in the Test side and, following a series of complications, he never won it back – until now.

"Behind the stumps I was pretty good straightaway, it didn't worry me too much," Paine recalled this week.

"But with batting, it really did affect me. I was battling mentally, I was out there thinking I was going to get hit and if I did get hit I'd never play again.

"It certainly rattled me a lot."

Work with a sports psychologist enabled Paine to overcome his batting phobias, and he has reshaped his batting grip to better suit the pins and plate in his right hand.

It was his unbeaten 71 for Tasmania last week on the eve of Test selection that came just at the right time.

But Australia greats were baffled as to how Paine, who has been wicketkeeper in just three Sheffield Shield games in the past two years and has not scored a first-class hundred since 2006, could find himself behind the stumps in an Ashes Test.

'Risky selection'

Former Test captain Allan Border was among those perplexed by the choice of the wicketkeeper.

"It seems bizarre to me," Border said. "That's a real risky selection from the panel. All the 'keepers around the country will be scratching their head saying 'what the hell is going on?'"

Yet Paine has taken all the criticism in his stride, and hopes he can now seize his chance to realise his potential after his ghastly finger injury.

"The opportunity has come at a really good time for me," Paine said.

"The past five or six months I've really started to bat well again and I'll go into this Test with some confidence.

"I've had some success in the few Tests I have played, so I'll take some confidence from that."

Paine's work behind the stumps has not been questioned. He has been hailed as the best technical gloveman in the country.

It's just that the opportunities have passed him by.

His Tasmanian state side has looked to others in recent seasons, drafting in imports for the wicketkeeper's role instead of Paine, and this year Test incumbent Matthew Wade also returned home from a decade with Victoria.

"I always had faith I would be playing," Paine said.

"I didn't know what level that would be, but I've always been plugging away and been keen to get back in the Tassie Shield team and always had confidence that my best cricket would be good enough."

Now his unexpected Test chance has arrived, and Paine is not about to let it go.

"I'm not here for five minutes, I'm here to make the most of this opportunity," he said.

"To be honest, I'm sick of talking about being the person who hurt his finger and what could have been six or seven years ago.

"That's the way I'm looking at this opportunity."

Published Date: Nov 22, 2017 | Updated Date: Nov 22, 2017




Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 4969 124
2 South Africa 3767 111
3 England 4497 105
4 New Zealand 3489 100
5 Australia 3294 97
Rank Team Points Rating
1 South Africa 6386 120
2 India 6546 119
3 Australia 5948 114
4 England 6156 114
5 New Zealand 5432 111
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5 India 2965 119