Qantas Tour of South Africa

Reborn Paine recalls his 'mental demons'

Aussie 'keeper looks back on the leanest of periods and discusses how he emerged from those dark times

Cricket Network

07 March 2018, 06:00 PM

Australia wicketkeeper Tim Paine has revealed the depths to which he sunk as he battled "mental demons" during his seven-year hiatus from Test cricket.

Paine's 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 the Tasmanian's lack of form at first-class level and the fact that he was not even considered first-choice wicketkeeper in the Tigers' Sheffield Shield squad. 

But the 33-year-old has since vindicated the remarkable call from the national selection panel, combining a series of excellent performances behind the stumps with an ability to play to the match situation with the bat. 

Paine made 25 and 14 in the first Test against South Africa in Durban and took a brilliant catch up to the stumps off Mitch Marsh to remove centurion Aiden Markram at a crucial juncture on day four, underlining his class with the gloves. 

And while that facet of his game has rarely, if ever, been called into question, it was a different story with his batting for a prolonged period: in 27 first-class innings between the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons, he made 409 runs at 16.36 with a top score of 44. 

The best of Tim Paine's Ashes glovework

"I couldn't get a run," Paine reflected on Tuesday as the Australians switched their focus to the second Test, beginning on Friday in Port Elizabeth. 

"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."

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Paine credited Tasmania assistant coach Jeff Vaughan – who came on board in last year's off-season – with helping him turn around his form with the bat, adding that the former first-class batsman had also been responsible for a revitalised Tasmania batting order in the ongoing Shield campaign. 

"I had to do a lot of work with our sports psych firstly, and luckily Adam Griffith was appointed coach and he brought with him Jeff Vaughan, who has been amazing and not just for me," he added. 

"If you look at Tasmanian's year this year, he's been down there for six or seven months now and he's turned that batting group around completely. He's done an amazing job. We're lucky he came down when he did.

"I was starting to bat really well through this pre-season under Jeff. And then the (Tasmania) pre-season tour and I played the one Shield game and got 70 odd not out against the Vics, so I was feeling really good. 

"But I needed to get out in the middle and score a few runs to prove to myself that I could do it under pressure."

There is perhaps no greater exposure to pressure in cricket than an Ashes campaign, and Paine's crucial 57 in the second Test in Adelaide was an indication that he'd passed his own test with flying colours. 

He finished the series with 192 runs at 48, an impressive 25 catches and the praise of his captain, Steve Smith. 

"Painey has been mentioned as probably the best keeper in the country for a long period of time, and the way he's kept has been exceptional," Smith said.

"And the way he's batted has been exceptional as well, we've had some very valuable runs from him at number seven."

Qantas tour of South Africa

South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.

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: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights

First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard

Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13. Live coverage

Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26. Live coverage

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage