Australia wicketkeeper Tim Paine has brought more than just a clean set of gloves to the Test team since his shock recall for the Magellan Ashes, according to assistant coach Brad Haddin.
Paine was one of the biggest selection bombshells in Ashes history but now is on the cusp of starting his second series in his Test comeback as Australia’s preparation for the four-match Qantas Tour of South Africa kicked off in Benoni on Sunday.
A close-to-flawless Ashes series with the gloves netted 26 dismissals but more importantly set the bar for Australia’s fielding unit, believes Haddin.
Having stood behind the stumps in 66 Tests, Haddin is fully aware of the responsibility a wicketkeeper is handed for setting the tone in the field, and Paine has led by example since his return at the Gabba last November.
“His keeping and his batting through the summer was outstanding,” said Haddin yesterday. “But what I enjoyed most was the character that he brought to the group.
“He really set the standard for our fielding team.
“He knows he owns that part of the game and that’s his part of the game to make sure the guys are sharp out there, and they’ve responded really well to him.
“He’s had a great summer and now is another great opportunity to keep improving on what he did during the summer.”
Paine’s influence stretches farther than just marshalling the fielders.
The 33-year-old is a sounding board to Australia’s leadership duo of captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner.
With more than 50 international caps and close to 100 first-class appearances, Paine’s vast experience has been a valuable asset to the No.3-ranked Test team.
The veteran was rested from the JLT Sheffield Shield round prior to the Test squad’s departure for South Africa last week, meaning he’s mentally and physically fresh to add to his dismissal tally, rally the fielders and bounce around ideas with the team’s brains trust.
“He’s got a really good cricket brain, he understands the game, he’s been in the game a long time,” said Haddin.
“Sometimes out there (in the middle), Steve has got a lot on his plate, and so has David, so it’s good to have another set of eyes with the cricket smarts Tim has.”
Qantas tour of South Africa
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match v SA Invitational XI, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24
First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5
Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3