Tim Paine's route to a Magellan Ashes debut has been far from conventional, but Australia great Ricky Ponting believes the Tasmanian could be the answer to the Australia’s wicketkeeping woes.
Paine has sensationally been handed the gloves for Australia's Magellan Ashes campaign despite not being the Tigers' first-choice keeper and having his career nearly ended by a succession of finger injuries.
But Ponting, who presented Paine with his Baggy Green in 2010 when he made his Test debut at Lord's against Pakistan, believes the 32-year-old's time out of the game may be a blessing in disguise.
"I don’t think there’s ever been any doubt about his wicketkeeping ability which is the reason why he had never been dropped from the Australian team," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"I've said for a long time, that he’s clearly the best keeper in the country and over the years we’ve seen glimpses of how good a batsman he actually is.
"The thing about him is, he hasn’t actually played that much cricket because of the injuries he’s had. Two whole years off and then the last few years he’s been in and out of the state team as well.
"Without playing much cricket he’s always looked after himself exceptionally well. He’s always the first one in the gym and he’s got a naturally fit and athletic body.
"If he can nail some good performances these first few Test matches then that will obviously secure his spot for the rest of this series. Which could then mean he’s Australia’s gloveman for the next few years."
Having been deployed as a specialist opener at the start of his first-class career more than a decade ago, Paine has been so highly-rated as a batsman that Ponting believes his returns tend to inevitably fall short of high expectations.
The right-hander's first-class returns with the bat in recent seasons - before half-centuries against England in a tour match last week and against Victoria this week he'd failed to make a first-class fifty in more than three years - have precluded him from featuring more as a specialist batsman for Tasmania.
But Ponting points out the fact he fell just eight runs short of a ton in his third Test outing – the opening match of Australia's 2010 tour of India – is a sign Paine has the mettle to deliver under the harsh spotlight of international cricket.
"That's the thing that's held him back from playing a lot more for Tasmania in the last few years," said Ponting, who has worked closely with Paine on his batting in recent times.
"Everyone knows he’s talented with the bat, so when he doesn’t make those big scores it’s almost a negative against him.
"If you can get an average of 30 or 40 out of your wicketkeeper that’s all you need if your top order is doing their job.
"Technically he’s very correct. When you watch him in the Big Bash you just think, 'how has this guy not actually scored more Shield runs?'
"When he’s out there playing well, he looks as good as any of the other batters around the country.
"There’s no doubting there’s a lot of talent there and he’s made a Test match 92 before in tough conditions in India, so let’s hope he can repay the faith the selectors have shown - I’m sure he will."
Paine had been on the verge of departing Tasmania for a job in Melbourne at the end of last summer having played just three Sheffield Shield matches at the back-end of the season.
A two-year contract offer from his native state eventuated but with incumbent Test gloveman Matthew Wade (who originally left the Apple Isle a decade ago because he was behind Paine in the state's pecking order) moving back to Hobart over the winter, there was no room for Paine in the Shield side at the start of this summer.
After scoring an unbeaten 71 against the Bushrangers this week playing as a specialist batsman, selectors decided Paine was their best bet with the likes of Wade and his Test predecessor Peter Nevill failing to advance their case in the early Shield rounds.
And while Ponting admits Paine’s selection is "left-field", he says the gloveman’s meticulous streak will help him find his feet again at Test level.
"He’s a very competitive person, a born winner who wears his heart on his sleeve when he’s out on the pitch and someone who is always trying to get the best out of his teammates.”
2017-18 International Fixtures
Magellan Ashes Series
First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets
Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets
Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets
ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets
Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets
T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21