Paine primed for English glove affair
Former Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin says the current skipper’s glovework 'is as good as anyone in the world'
Andrew Ramsey in Birmingham
31 July 2019, 05:00 PM AEST
Amid all the postulating on how the Dukes ball benefits bowlers and bewilders batters when let loose in conducive English conditions, the issue it can cause for wicketkeepers is rarely discussed.
However, as anyone who has donned the gloves at Test venues as geographically and spiritually different as Lord's and Leeds will attest, the late swing for which the British-brand ball is renowned can become even more pronounced once it passes the stumps.
Depending on how the ball reacts once it hits the pitch and its seam position is altered, it has been known to veer violently away from or drop alarmingly in front of keepers.
Those who are unfamiliar with this local idiosyncrasy, or who are not vigilant in maintaining their 'shape' and technique, can be left embarrassed as what seemed a regulation take inexplicably eludes their gloves.
Or more problematic still, strikes the end of a finger which can yield significant pain or even substantial injury.
Nobody is more attuned to that latter scenario than Australia's current Bupa Support Team fielding coach Brad Haddin, whose 66 Tests behind the stumps included Ashes campaigns in the UK in 2009, 2013 and 2015 (as well as being back-up keeper to Adam Gilchrist in 2005).
Haddin had already sustained a finger injury that he was nursing through the 2009 series when he copped a blow on his left index-digit during the pre-game warm-up for the third Test at Edgbaston, where the current Ashes battle gets underway on Thursday.
The fact that the coin toss had already been conducted and the team sheets finalised on that day a decade ago meant Australia had to seek permission from their England opponents and the match referee to substitute their injured gloveman with uncapped replacement, Graham Manou, at the last minute.
It's with that painful first-hand experience in mind that Haddin has been working closely with incumbent keeper and Test skipper Tim Paine, who has yet to experience an Ashes contest in the UK.
With heavy skies and damp conditions forecast to prevail for at least the first few days of the opening Ashes Test starting on Thursday, the likelihood of the Dukes ball misbehaving has increased.
But Haddin believes that the problems that arise for wicketkeepers, as unpredictable as the occurrence can prove, can be actively planned for through correct preparation.
"You've got to make sure you're in good positions, that your weight's not going back on your heels so you can react if the ball does drop or swing," Haddin told The Unplayable Podcast.
"Traditionally, it can be a tough time keeping over here, if your technique is not up to scratch you can sometimes be found out.
"That's all the stuff that we talk about pre-tour (planning) to counteract, if that happens.
"I'm pretty confident Tim's got all that under control.
"I've said it before, I think Tim's glovework is as good as anyone’s in the world.
"You don’t have to say much to him at all, he understands his game.
"If something's not quite right, it's only a little look and he says 'oh, I didn’t do that' so he's a pleasure to coach."
Paine's only previous experience keeping wickets in Tests played on British turf came in his maiden series against Pakistan in 2010 when matches were staged at neutral venues Lord's and Headingley.
But he has gleaned significant exposure to the game in England having played as the overseas professional with Banbury Cricket Club in Oxfordshire as part of the Home Counties League.
Paine, who on Thursday will become the first Australia men's Test captain since Billy Murdoch in 1880 to lead a team against England without having previously played an Ashes Test in the UK, acknowledges there are unique challenges that come with keeping in Britain.
But the 34-year-old is confident that the work he's put in throughout his career to date and with Haddin since the Test squad came together in Southampton two weeks ago, has him ready to meet them.
"It’s no different to batting or bowling and it’s the same when you go to the subcontinent, the conditions are different," Paine said today.
"It’s about being able to adapt to that, and guys have different ways of doing it.
"I’ve got some things that I like to stick to all around the world.
"I’ve worked on my wicketkeeping for a number of years to make sure I’m good enough to adapt to any conditions.
"I’ll keep slightly differently here than I do in Australia, and slightly differently to how I do on the subcontinent.
"I’m really comfortable with how I set up my wicketkeeping.
"I’ll have a few small tweaks, but nothing major."
From what he's seen and knows, Haddin holds no doubt that Paine will slip smoothly into the subtly different skills that keeping wicket demands in England.
Haddin, in conjunction with men's team coach Justin Langer, has also been focusing heavily on slips catching drills with Paine and other likely members of Australia's cordon over the past fortnight.
Their charter has been to ensure the chances that are expected to be generated by the seam and swing bowlers in the forecast cool and cloudy match conditions are not squandered.
"We've got some really good fast bowlers here," Haddin said.
"And there's no point having a really good group of quicks if we're not catching well behind the wicket."
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), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
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