Paine plots new path as Under-19s mentor
Test skipper will lend his wisdom and earn some coaching experience in upcoming CA XI versus NT Strike matches in Darwin
28 July 2021, 09:43 AM AEST
As Australia's rising cricket talent step up their preparation for next year's Under-19 World Cup by taking part in the Northern Territory's Cricket 365 program, their development will be further boosted by input from Test captain Tim Paine.
Having recently undertaken his high-performance (level-three) coaching credentials with a view to assuming a mentoring role when his playing days are done, Paine will be part of the coaching panel overseeing a Cricket Australia XI in three one-day games against a representative NT outfit in Darwin next month.
The CA XI squad was announced this week and features a core of aspiring World Cup candidates alongside players with first-class and international experience including New South Wales trio Chris Tremain, Jack Edwards and Jason Sangha as well as Western Australia quick Liam Guthrie.
After COVID-19 put paid to last year's national age championships and recent border closures meant the last-minute cancellation of a planned Under-19 training camp at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane, the NT matches loom as a crucial part of planning for the World Cup scheduled for the West Indies next January.
And in addition to pitting themselves against an NT team dotted with well-regarded state players such as captain Jake Weatherald (South Australia) and Tasmania pair Tom Andrews and Beau Webster, the CA XI will receive insights and inspiration from Paine.
The Australia captain is expected to join up with the CA XI – to be led by National Performance Coach Troy Cooley, with the NT Strike team under the guidance of veteran mentor Greg Shipperd – for the final two games of the three-match series that starts on Sunday.
Cricket Australia's National Talent and Pathways Manager Graham Manou said Paine's involvement provides further indication the 36-year-old might be looking at coaching roles, and particularly with development teams, when he decides to hang up his keeping gloves.
"We know he's got a keen interest in talent identification and talent management," Manou told cricket.com.au.
"He's obviously thinking about his future beyond playing days, and it's nice that we've got the opportunity to be able to support him in that.
"He's undertaken his level-three, or high-performance coach accreditation so he's starting that process.
"It gives him a chance to see what's happening and learn a little bit from some of the other coaches who will be involved in Darwin.
"And it also means he can continue to impart some of those behaviours and values the Australian team are wanting, from not only their current players but future players as well.
With barely five months before their scheduled World Cup kicks off in the Caribbean, a number of Australia's Under-19 hopefuls had headed to Darwin for NT Cricket's inaugural Strike League program that began with a four-team one-day tournament this month.
Following the three 50-over matches between the CA XI and NT Strike next week – the first at Darwin's Gardens Oval and the final two day-night fixtures at DXC Arena – a two-week TIO Strike League T20 competition will be played which will also feature KFC BBL rivals Melbourne Renegades and Melbourne Stars.
Manou said the Cricket 365 program had allowed some of the nation's best under-age players – many of whom had been restricted to Premier Cricket in their respective states during last summer's disrupted season – to hone their skills in off-season competition.
But he added the chance to play alongside and against established first-class cricketers for the CA XI in the upcoming series added another invaluable dimension to the experience they have gained.
"One of the philosophies of the last five or so years has been to try and provide some of those extension or stretch opportunities for players who have been identified across the pathway," Manou said.
"Having the additional layer of some really experienced players, and some players that have walked a mile in their shoes – (former Australia under-19 representatives) Jack Edwards and Jason Sangha as examples – it allows some really nice opportunities for them to share information.
"It allows the younger guys to observe how these guys go about it, and certainly it will provide an opportunity for Jack and Jason, as well as some of the other senior players, to continue to enhance and develop their leadership qualities, which sits really well with us."
The recent restrictions on cross-border travel and ongoing lockdowns in southern states has meant some World Cup hopefuls who might have been chosen for the CA XI could not be considered, or have been chosen pending changes to travel protocols.
Among those awaiting final clarification of availability is Craig Howard, CA's Melbourne-based specialist spin bowling coach who was to join Cooley and Paine in overseeing the group with an expectation spin will play a central role in next year's World Cup on slow Caribbean pitches.
Selectors will therefore keenly watch how young Queensland off-spinner Jackson Sinfield – who was signed as a replacement player by Brisbane Heat in last summer's BBL – performs for the CA XI against top-order batters the calibre of Weatherald and Webster.
Others pushing for a World Cup berth who are expected to feature for the CA XI are Queensland keeper-batter Toby Snell and SA's Sam Rahaley who earned selection in a previous CA XI Under-19 team when still eligible for Under-17s.
Promising Victoria spinner Reiley Mark is another who Manou is looking forward to seeing in the NT series provided current restrictions are lifted in time for him to travel from Melbourne.
"Strategically, spin is something we're looking at, not only from a short-term perspective in terms of the players' development, but long-term it's also vitally important how we manage spin, both from the art of bowling it to batting against it as well," Manou said today.
"So any time we can get match opportunities for our development players is vitally important.
"The more we can provide these types of opportunities over and above training, it gives us so much more information to go by and it provides them with information in terms of what's required to continue to make steps forwards in their very young careers.
"Originally, the idea was the Cricket 365 program would encourage the states to send up their better young players to Darwin to continue to get match opportunities, and through that the CA XI team was going to be selected.
"But with COVID over the past 12 months, we just saw it as an opportunity to try and get more of a strategic focus around the Under-19 World Cup."
It's more than a decade since Australia last lifted the global Under-19 trophy, when Mitchell Marsh led a team that included fellow future Australia representatives Josh Hazlewood, Kane Richardson and Nic Maddinson to victory over Pakistan in New Zealand in 2010.
CA remains hopeful plans to host next summer's National Under-19 Championship in December and Under-17 title (the following month) will go ahead despite the ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
But even if restrictions limit opportunities for the aspiring World Cup players to gain competitive match practice, or even force the ICC to reconsider where the event is held as has been the case with the upcoming men's T20 World Cup, Manou is mindful of the bigger picture.
"Obviously, every time someone plays for Australia they want to win but our objective is also about the longer-term outcomes," he said.
"So regardless of whether it's a World Cup or it's an international opportunity, we just need to find ways to get that for them so they can experience different conditions and different challenges that are thrown at them, not only on the field but off it as well.
"Hopefully that's the World Cup next year, but if not we'll have to look at other solutions."
Squads for Chamber NT Top End Series
Cricket Australia XI: Isaac Higgins (SA), Teague Wyllie (WA), Dylan Kritzinger (Qld), Sam Rahaley (SA), Campbell Kellaway (Vic), Toby Snell (Qld), Noah McFadyen (Qld), Jackson Sinfield (Qld), Josh Kann (Qld), Liam Guthrie (WA), Jack Edwards (NSW), Chris Tremain (NSW), Zac Sleeman (Vic), Jason Sangha (NSW), Reiley Mark (Vic).
NT Strike: Jake Weatherald (c) (Tracy Village / SA), Tom Andrews (vc) (Darwin / Tas), Blade Baxter (PINT), Ash Chandrasinghe (Waratah), Jacob Dick (West), Dean Fry (Southern Districts), Ryan Harvey (Southern Districts), Jackson Isakka (Southern Districts), Michael Kudra (Nightcliff), Joel Logan (PINT), Hamish Martin (Palmerston), Troy Ryan (Darwin), Kyle Scrimegour (Tracy Village), Beau Webster (Darwin / Tas), Luke Zanchetta (Darwin).
(Note: Players who have previously represented NT or an NT junior team, or have played club cricket in NT in past three years are eligible for selection in NT Strike)