Domain Tests v Sri Lanka
Paine dares to dream of Ashes triumph
Australia skipper can't wait to get to England and tackle the Old Enemy for the Ashes later this year
4 February 2019, 06:38 PM AEST
According to the Beginner's Book of Sportspeople's Truisms, looking any further into the future than the next contest is to risk stumbling over one's hubris, and landing flat on one's crimson face.
But Tim Paine, who has already shown himself to be cut from an altogether different cloth than many of his fraternity, admitted today that he's been actively thinking about this year's Ashes campaign in the UK for the past six months.
And that he's delighted that the two-Test Domain Series against Sri Lanka is now out of the way so that he can train all of his energy and expertise on retaining the trophy that Australia has not won on British soil since Steve Waugh's team did so back in 2001.
Given the other issues to have been loaded upon Paine's plate in the aftermath of last year's sandpaper scandal in South Africa, the fact that he found time and inclination to cast his mind to the Ashes a full year - and three complete Test series – before it starts is instructive.
If there was any question about the obsession attached to Australia defeating England on their own turf, Paine put it to rest in the immediate aftermath of his team's 2-0 thumping of Sri Lanka at Canberra's Manuka Oval today.
Asked when he envisaged he might allow himself to clear his head of duties just done and turn his thoughts to the Ashes, Paine instantly shot back: "About six months ago".
Followed by a lengthy pause, just to ensure the gravity of his reply sank in for the gathered media representatives.
"I've been dreaming about it actually," he then went on to say.
"So I'm happy now that we've got this out of the way, and we can put everything into it because every Australian cricketer can't wait to play an Ashes series, and particularly in England.
"It's something that I've certainly dreamed of as a kid.
"I didn’t think that I'd be going over as the captain but in the back of my mind I've been thinking about it.
"I've been watching England, keeping a really close eye on them (and) I can't wait to get over there."
During the course of those ruminations that pre-dated Australia's 0-1 Test series loss to Pakistan in the UAE, their 1-2 defeat at the hands of India in the preceding Domain Series at home and now the dismissal of a dismal Sri Lanka, Paine has formed some clear ideas.
Among them is a likely squad of 16 or 17 that he will lead for the five-Test battle against the Old Enemy that begins at Edgbaston on August 1, and is scheduled to conclude at The Oval on September 16.
Paine admits that some of the names he has finalised in his head, though not yet committed to paper, might have their order shuffled depending on performances with and against the England-made Dukes ball during the upcoming final rounds of the JLT Sheffield Shield.
However, across the nine Tests that he's led Australia since the suspension imposed upon previous leaders Steve Smith and David Warner post-Cape Town – and the nights in which thoughts of defeating England have imposed themselves upon his already busy mind – Paine has developed a picture.
It's an image of the players that he believes will be best equipped to end a losing streak in the UK that stretches back to a time when the now 34-year-old was still a schoolboy in Hobart.
"I haven't written any (names) down, but I've got a fair idea what it might look like," Paine said when asked for his thoughts on a likely Ashes touring party that is not expected to be publicly announced until at least late-June.
"But I'm not a selector, so I get asked for my input but I think they (the three-man selection panel) would have a pretty good picture of what it would look like.
"What we've seen over this summer is that we've now started to build a squad with plenty of depth.
"So there's probably anywhere between 16 and 20 players now that we think are in the mix, which is a really good place to be."
Aside from his own position, Paine can bank on batters Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Marcus Harris and Marnus Labuschagne being in that group as well as fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson and Josh Hazlewood (if fit) and spinner Nathan Lyon.
Also among that cohort, as Paine confirmed tonight, will be Smith and Warner whose suspensions will be completed in less than eight weeks and will be in the squad and perhaps the starting XI at Edgbaston depending on their form and fitness at that time.
The skipper acknowledges he can't guarantee the former captain and deputy will be "walk-up starts" given they've not played any top-level cricket since the Test at Newlands last March.
But he has indicated they will figure prominently in the planning that takes place from here-on, and which will now be front of mind for Paine's who isn't part of the white-ball commitments that will occupy many of his Test teammates over coming months.
"I think everyone has to earn their stripes, to a degree," Paine said.
"Those two (Smith and Warner) have got plenty of runs in the bank, if you like, and I see them going to the Ashes and them having a huge part in us winning the series.
"That's how important they are to this team, as I see.
"We know how good they are, and hopefully once their bans are up they will be welcomed back and they'll win Test matches like they did before."
Domain Test Series v Sri Lanka
Australia: Tim Paine (c/wk), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Kurtis Patterson, Will Pucovski, Jhye Richardson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Rajitha, Chamika Karunaratne, Vishwa Fernando
First Test: Australia won by an innings and 40 runs
Second Test: Australia won by 366 runs