Former Australian captain Tim Paine is set to return to first-class cricket after he was named in Tasmania’s squad for their Marsh Sheffield Shield opener against Queensland in Brisbane this week. The 37-year-old wicketkeeper walked away from the sport in the lead-up to the 2021 Ashes series against England when a sexting scandal dating back to late 2017 became public.
He had quit the Test captaincy after admitting involvement in a lewd text exchange with a female employee of Cricket Tasmania. Cricket Australia investigated at the time and cleared him of wrongdoing.
“I’ve obviously been training for five, six weeks. I’m ready to go, excited, obviously a bit nervous, but looking forward to it.” Paine told reporters at Hobart airport.
He then joked, “I’m pretty fresh that’s for sure.”
Asked if his 37-year-old legs were still up to the rigours of wicketkeeping, Paine replied, “They should be right, done it for a while now.”
Paine has been training with the Tasmanian Tigers squad in recent months as an uncontracted player. “Firstly his name was on the table for one-day cricket and then he was on the table last week when we selected (the Shield). And it was quite unanimous that everyone wanted one of the world’s best wicketkeepers into our side,” coach Jeff Vaughan told australia.com.au.
Vaughan backed Paine to settle quickly for the Tigers despite a brief tune-up for his 148th first-class game. ”We have absolute faith and trust in Tim and his preparation. Physically he is probably in the greatest spot of his physical career, emotionally he is sound. He has been training really well with us the last two months. We have got full faith in his wicketkeeping skillset so he has ticked all of the boxes, Vaughan said.
Australia T20 captain Aaron Finch welcomed Paine’s return to top-flight cricket. “I think it’s really good for Australian cricket to have Tim around,” Finch said today on the Gold Coast where Australia play the West Indies in a T20 match on Wednesday evening.
“For Tasmania to have his experience back around the side with a squad that that has got a few young players, the Tasmanian side will be better for that. I think Australian cricket is better for having Tim involved in a playing capacity,” he added.
“He’s looking forward to playing and we’re thrilled to have him back,” Damien Wright, coach of University, Paine’s junior club, told AAP. “He’s as fit as he’s ever been. Mentally, he’s in a really good place as well. From all reports he’s been training the house down. “I see him quite regularly. He knows there’s a bit of hype around it. It’s a great story – he’s still got plenty of cricket left in him, we believe,” he added.