Magellan Ashes 2017-18
Exclusive: Tim's pain passes in eventful 2017
In an exclusive interview with cricket.com.au on Thursday, Tim Paine reflects on how he nearly walked away from the game
16 November 2017, 09:28 PM AEST
After one of the most eventful years of his life, Tim Paine is set to be back in the Baggy Green with a fresh perspective on the game he almost walked away from earlier this year.
Cricket.com.au believes Paine's shock return to Test cricket will be confirmed on Friday morning when Cricket Australia announces its squad for the first two Magellan Ashes Tests against England.
His return to the Test set-up for the first time in more than seven years would come just months after he was poised to quit first-class cricket for good and pursue a career outside the playing arena.
Having been set to move to Melbourne to take up a job at cricket equipment manufacturer Kookaburra, Paine was given a lifeline when the post-season upheaval in Tasmania earlier this year – including the sacking of coach Dan Marsh – led to an unexpected two-year contract extension.
Speaking to cricket.com.au on Thursday evening before reports of his shock recall emerged, the 32-year-old was clearly unaware of rumours he was about to return to the Test side.
He said facing his cricketing mortality earlier this year had given him renewed vigour heading into his 12th season with the Tigers.
"I wasn't far off taking a job at Kookaburra so to even be playing first-class cricket is probably more than I expected at one stage," Paine said in an exclusive interview at the MCG.
"I've been lucky that there's been a lot of changes at Cricket Tasmania and it's kind of refreshed myself and a few of the older guys.
"So it feels like a new job at the moment and it's really exciting.
"I'm enjoying playing cricket again, which is the main part. Four-day cricket has been a bit of a struggle for me in the past few years.
"So it's nice to come out the other side and start to play well and enjoy it again."
There has been a major change in Paine's personal life too in the form of a baby girl, his first child with wife Bonnie.
And his reaction to his three-ball duck on day one of Tasmania's JLT Sheffield Shield match against Victoria this week indicated fatherhood had also given him a fresh perspective on the game.
"My life has definitely changed, whether that's helping me (on the field), I'm not too sure," he said of five-month old Milla.
Celebrating 2 months of life 💥#millapaine A post shared by Bonnie Paine (@bon.paine) on
"I was speaking to Dools (teammate Alex Doolan) after the first innings when I got out for zero ... usually I think I'd probably kick a few cans. But I said, 'No I'm fine, it's just a game'.
"I think since we've had her, it has become just a game. You get home and you see her and you don't really care."
The four-Test gloveman also dismissed any fears that his lack of first-class cricket in recent years has had an adverse effect on his keeping skills.
Paine has been Australia's T20 wicketkeeper for the past seven matches, captained and kept wicket for the CA XI against England in Adelaide last week, and stood at first slip alongside Test incumbent Matthew Wade for most of this week's Shield game. But he has kept in only four first-class games in the past 18 months.
However, having been long regarded as one of the cleanest glovemen in the country, he said his muscle memory from years of crouching behind the stumps has held him in good stead.
"Keeping is something I've been really comfortable with over a long period of time," he said. "I don't really have to work on that as much.
"If there's something you mentally feel really good about, it's a confidence thing.
"It's a bit of a challenge at the moment. I've been trying to do as much as I can at training and I've been trying to play as much club cricket as I can."
Had Paine quit first-class cricket this year, it would have been a sad final chapter in a frustrating career that had promised so much but, up until this week, failed to deliver on expectations.
Once touted as a future Test captain by Steve Waugh, Paine looked set to realise his enormous potential when he played four Tests and 26 one-day internationals between 2009 and 2011, including an ODI century in England and a Test 92 in India.
If Tim Paine makes a comeback in Brisbane, he will equal the Australian record of missing most games between two Test appearances currently held by Brad Hogg who missed 78 Tests between 1996 and 2003. #Ashes pic.twitter.com/GRHi2fbV1H— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) November 16, 2017
But a finger injury suffered in an exhibition game in 2010 set off a devastating and lengthy battle to regain full fitness, including six failed operations to mend the shattered digit.
If anyone deserved a good break (excuse the pun) or two, it was Paine.
And 2017 has delivered just that.
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
Gillette 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
Gillette T20 INTL 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 13
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21