Guess what? Tim Paine, the 46th Australian Test captain, made his debut in the longer format along with then leg-spinner and now disgraced skipper Steve Smith. It was a Test against Pakistan in July 2010 at the Lord’s. Later, after playing four Tests and 26 ODIs, Paine fell into obscurity with a serious finger injury he sustained in an exhibition game, while Smith went on to achieve extraordinary success with his bat.
Staying with extraordinary success, Paine, who was close to quitting his career in cricket six months back, will now lead Australia's Test team in a time of crisis. Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were ordered to go home after getting implicated in the ball-tampering scandal that took place on Day 3 of the Cape Town Test against South Africa.
Bancroft was seen taking out what he said was a yellow tape out of his trouser pocket and rubbing the ball. Before the on-field umpires confronted Bancroft, the opening batsman was also seen putting the tape inside his trousers. After the day's play, Smith admitted the team's "leadership group" had a plan, carried out by Bancroft, to tamper with the ball to get an advantage.
When the incident became a huge issue, Cricket Australia asked Smith and vice-captain Warner to step down from their leadership roles and appointed wicker-keeper Paine as captain for remainder of the third Test.
Paine's appointment as a leader has come at an unfortunate time for Australian cricket, but back in 2011, the legendary Steve Waugh had predicted that Paine might become a future Test captain. But as he was cementing his place in the Australia squad, the finger injury derailed his career. The injury was so bad that he required seven operations. Once Paine was back playing domestic career for Tasmania, his form didn't support him for quite a long time. He was not even being considered as first-choice wicket-keeper for his Sheffield Shield side.
But as fate would have it, Paine was surprisingly picked for the Ashes Down Under as the team's wicket-keeper. Just months before, Paine was contemplating retirement when he got a job with equipment manufacturer Kookaburra.
"I couldn't get a run. I think I just had some mental demons, really. I came back from a finger injury probably thinking that it was going to be a bit easier than it was. And then when it didn't happen I probably started to panic a little bit, to be honest. Cricket is a massive confidence game and I just completely lost my confidence," he was quoted by cricket.com.au.
At the start of the 2017-18 domestic season, Tasmania coach Adam Griffith had to convince Paine against quitting cricket. "He's very forthright, he's very good tactically, which for me is one of the most important things to win games of cricket. He's also a really good communicator," Griffith said.
After the retirement of Brad Haddin, Australia struggled to find a proper replacement. Australia had given a decent run to Peter Nevill and then Mathew Wade but both failed to make their spot permanent. So the Australian selectors took the call to select Paine for the Ashes. Since then, he has established himself as Australia's first-choice wicket-keeper in all three formats of the game.
Both in the Ashes and against South Africa, Paine showed that he is not the one to give away his wicket cheaply. Since his return to international cricket, the 33-year-old scored 338 runs in eight matches and effected 39 dismissals, which includes 37 catches and two stumpings.
"Being 33 he’s obviously towards the end of his career, so he’s got a sense of perspective that maybe the younger players don’t have. He’s gone through a really tough period with his finger injury which probably helps to keep him grounded. He’s a real calming influence, which is important," Cricket Tasmania CEO Nick Cummins told Wide World of Sports when asked about Paine.
Paine has his task cut out considering the kind of mess Australian cricket is at the moment. But he has shown both on the field and off the field that he has the ability to change things around.
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