Australia Tour of England - Men's
'A bit boring': Minor role keeps Paine fresh for Lord's
The Australian captain opted to hand over the wicketkeeping gloves against Worcestershire, and as a result, barely registered in the match whatsoever
Andrew Ramsey at New Road, Worcester
10 August 2019, 07:56 AM AEST
It wasn't quite a Davis Cup-style non-playing captaincy role, but Test skipper's Tim Paine's involvement in Australia's abbreviated tour game against Worcestershire was perhaps more overview than overlord.
After (unsuccessfully) calling at the coin toss, Paine played a conspicuously different part in the match that ended in a stalemate after rain forced an early abandonment at lunch on day three.
He didn't bat in either of Australia's innings, and opted not to take the gloves when his team was in the field having decided it was more useful for back-up keeper Matthew Wade to ensure his skills remained sharp in case he's needed during the remaining four Ashes Tests.
There were times, under the soft midlands sun on Thursday afternoon, when Paine fielded on the boundary rope at deep backward point, as much because it allowed him to be stationed within chatting distance of Australia's support staff as for its runs-saving necessity.
Prior to that, he had placed himself at mid-off to enable him to liaise with his pace bowling attack, led by Test aspirants Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.
And for a fleeting movement he was at point where he swooped upon a crisply timed square drive and fired a throw at the single available stump in his eyeline, demonstrably anguished when the shy failed to find its mark with the Worcestershire non-striker stretching to make good his ground.
"Close," was Paine's smiling response at game's end when asked how near he had come to completing a stunning run out.
"But I should have gone to the other end."
While the sight of Paine walking in with the bowler, on the alert to stop any ground balls headed his way, or testing his throwing arm by hurling in returns to his Tasmania teammate Wade was unusual, in reality it was not such an aberration.
The 34-year-old, who men's team coach Justin Langer has described as the most highly skilled gloveman currently playing at international level, doesn't keep wickets when he turns out for his Hobart Premier Cricket club, Tasmania University.
"And I've played quite a few of those games over the last few years," Paine said, referencing his oft-cited stints on the outer of Test and even interstate cricket in recent summers.
However, despite choosing to play as virtually a specialist fielder in the match that was essentially an opportunity for auxiliary squad members to enjoy some game time, Paine conceded he felt a little disconnected from the action.
In other circumstances, he likely would have been rested from the Worcestershire game altogether given his recent admission that his Ashes calendar had been carefully planned to ensure he was allowed sufficient opportunities to rest and recharge between Tests.
But the decision to grant World Cup squad members Steve Smith, David Warner, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon leave passes from the game at Worcester, plus the need to rest quicks Peter Siddle and James Pattinson after the Edgbaston Test win, meant Paine was required so that Australia could field the requisite playing 11 from their 17-man squad.
And while the view he was afforded from the in-field, and then from the far reaches of the New Road outfield, was decidedly different it was not one that he necessarily wants to repeat anytime soon.
"I didn't really enjoy it, it was a bit boring," Paine said of his stints as a fielder.
"It's different because you don't see what the ball is doing.
"People have said in the past that being a wicketkeeper and a captain might be a disadvantage.
"Now that I've done it a bit more, I see it as more of an advantage.
"I can see ball movement, I can see or feel when a bowler's getting tired from the way he's hitting my gloves, and I can see exactly where a batsman is moving to, or what mark he's batting on.
"So I found it a little bit harder in this game, when you can't see exactly what's happening.
"You're relying on other people's information a lot.
"It was nice to have a bit of a spell from wicketkeeping but I'm looking forward to getting back behind (the stumps)."
There's no doubt that Paine's reduced role at Worcester was in keeping with the pre-Ashes plan to manage his workload, in light of his revelation that since taking on the captaincy he often finds himself mentally "playing the game for everyone".
As the first Australia men's team skipper since Billy Murdoch - who led the first official team on what would become recognised as an Ashes tour in 1880 - to captain in a Test against England without having previously experienced a match against the old foe on their home turf, Paine was unsure how daunting or otherwise he might find it.
But with one Test played – for a 251-run win – he claims that it's panned out fairly much as he had anticipated.
Although he acknowledged the pressure he felt amid the convivial, tea-and-cakes atmosphere at Worcester this week will be vastly changed when he enters the cauldron of the second Test at Lord's on Wednesday morning.
"It's pretty much as I expected," he said of captaining Australia in an away Ashes series.
"I'm really lucky, in this day and age you've got a lot of staff around you and a lot of … (experienced) captains and players.
"There's a lot of support on and off the field, so I feel great.
"You always do after a win, but we'll get down to Lord's (on Saturday) and it all starts again.
"And a lot of that nervous tension and intensity comes back really quickly."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval