Qantas Tour of South Africa
Paine to be Australia's 46th Test captain
Tasmanian wicketkeeper-batsman completes remarkable rise, replacing suspended Smith for fourth Test
28 March 2018, 01:07 AM AEST
Tim Paine will become Australia's 46th Test captain on Friday following Cricket Australia's decision to strip Steve Smith of the captaincy for his involvement in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.
Paine acted as interim captain on the fourth and final day of the third Test at Newlands after Smith stood down from the leadership before the start of play.
Smith was suspended for one match by the International Cricket Council for "conduct contrary to the spirit of the game" and has been sent home by Cricket Australia alongside David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, leaving Paine to pick up the pieces as Australia attempt to maintain their unbeaten post-Apartheid record in South Africa when the fourth Test begins in Johannesburg on Friday.
Paine is Tasmania's second Test captain after Ricky Ponting, the first from Hobart, and the first wicketkeeper to take on the role since Adam Gilchrist filled in for Steve Waugh and Ponting on six occasions between 2000 and 2004.
Pride has not been a word remotely associated with Australian Test cricket in recent days but Paine's remarkable elevation to the Test captaincy has drawn a quiet sense of fulfilment for many in Tasmanian cricket.
While none hoped for or foresaw the set of circumstances that saw Paine lead a shell-shocked team on the final day at Newlands, the fact he was doing it at all was an acknowledgment of his understated role since his sensational recall.
Tigers coach Adam Griffith, who incredibly had to help convince Paine to remain in Tasmania at the start of the summer rather than taking up a job offer in Melbourne, endorsed the wicketkeeper as a worthy skipper.
"He'd be a good captain," said Griffith, who oversaw a dramatic turnaround for Tasmania – from sixth to runners-up – in this year's JLT Sheffield Shield.
"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. If he was to get the job he'd do a fantastic job."
Paine apologised to cricket fans following Australia's 322-run third-Test defeat in Cape Town, admitting it was "strange" to find himself making the calls on the game's final day.
"It's been a horrible 24 hours … the reality and the enormity of what's happened is starting to sink in," said the 33-year-old.
"I don't think we all would have expected this to be as big as it has been and particularly the fallout that we have seen from back home.
"The one positive that may come of it is guys are going to get an opportunity to play for their country.
"The whole opportunity for us going forward now is something we can learn from and something we can try to control (is) how we are seen going forward by our Australian public, and become the team that we want to become and they want us to be seen as."
Griffith also touched on the litany of finger injuries Paine suffered before embedding himself as Australia's wicketkeeper in all three formats of the game.
The gloveman first damaged his right index finger during an exhibition game in 2010 at the age of 25, having made his Test debut only months earlier – ironically alongside Smith – and suffered a series of setbacks in the ensuing years that put him on the brink of retirement.
"At the start of the season he was thinking about giving it away," Griffith added. "That's been an unbelievable move (to stay) for him. He's now playing all three formats at international level.
"I'm really pleased for him because he's done a lot of hard work to get there. The history has been well documented with his fingers – he was on the verge of perhaps being that (Australia) 'keeper for 10 years anyway.
"I'm just really proud of him and the work he's done and that he's back into that team and doing really well.
"He's not just in that team, he's performing really, really well."
Paine's ascendancy to the captaincy completes a remarkable tale; his recall for the first Test of the summer's Ashes series was considered one of the more astonishing selections in recent Australian cricket history, given his lack of form at first-class level and the fact that he was not even considered first-choice wicketkeeper in the Tigers' Shield squad.
"I couldn't get a run," Paine reflected earlier this month. "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.
"I couldn't score a run in club cricket three years ago."
As he has consistently done since his recall to the Test XI, Paine stood tall at Newlands with the bat while the team collapsed around him, finishing unbeaten in both innings (making 34no and 9no) and enhancing his leadership credentials in the process.
And while Paine has emerged as a natural leader within the group, his performances in his dual disciplines were identified by former wicketkeeper turned fielding coach Brad Haddin as being as impressive as ever in the build-up to the third Test.
"I think his keeping has gotten better since the Ashes," Haddin said last week. "I think the dismissal he got up to the stumps off Mitchell Marsh (at a vital stage of the first Test at Durban) was as hard as you get.
"That just goes to the work he's done, and he's been faultless behind the stumps, I think.
"He's also our link between the middle (order) and the tail, and he's really changed the momentum of the game.
"He understands how to play with the tail, whether he needs to push the game forward or shelter the tail a little bit.
"So from his batting point of view as well, and that was brought up before he was picked (for the Magellan Ashes series), he's really understood his role and made a difference there."
- With Adam Burnett
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers.
Australia squad: Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard
Second Test South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard
Third Test South Africa won by 322 runs. Scorecard
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage