Bangladesh tour 'unlikely', Paine's WTC goal uncertain
Australia captain's long-term goal of winning inaugural World Test Championship next year may rest on a recast schedule that prioritises the longest format
31 March 2020, 01:21 PM AEST
Tim Paine's goal of leading Australia to the maiden World Test Championship (WTC) title may depend on officials redrawing a Test-intensive schedule to ensure next year's final can go ahead as scheduled.
Paine conceded "you don't have to be Einstein" to realise June's two-Test tour of Bangladesh is unlikely to proceed as scheduled, potentially robbing Australia of a golden chance to gain ground on WTC leaders India.
If Paine's side manage a 2-0 series win over Bangladesh, it would see the second-placed Aussies (currently on 296 points on the WTC standings) take all 120 points on offer, meaning they would overtake India (360 points) ahead of the Border-Gavaskar series in Australia this coming summer.
WORLD TEST CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
So far, only international limited-overs series have been cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus pandemic, but cricket's shutdown has thrown all upcoming Test campaigns into uncertainty.
Cricket Australia and the Bangladesh Cricket Board are yet to make an official call on their series, which has Tests pencilled in for Chattogram from June 11 and Dhaka from June 19.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) currently has the WTC final marked down for June 2021, and Paine suggested there could be scope to rearrange cancelled Test series before then.
"I hope they don't push it back too far for my sake, that's for sure," said Paine, who turns 36 in December.
"Some series have been cancelled and whether ones going forward are going to be continually cancelled or we're going to postpone them (is uncertain).
"Maybe the players are going to have to go through a period where we play quite a bit of cricket if we want to complete the Test Championship as it is."
Cricket boards are able to reschedule Test series by bilateral agreement, but not fulfilling the schedule before the WTC final would require a significant rethink of the international calendar.
The WTC was introduced last year to give greater context to Test cricket, with 120 points on offer during each of the designated series for the top nine-ranked nations over the two-year cycle between 2019-2021.
While Paine believes teammates are eager to make the historic WTC decider, he stressed the global health crisis has put things into perspective.
"I think all players would be in favour of trying to finish that anyway we can (but) if it doesn't happen, there are bigger issues in the world and missing a few Test matches isn't going to hurt us," he said.
"You don't have to be Einstein to realise (the Bangladesh tour) is probably unlikely to go ahead, particularly in June. Whether it's cancelled or pushed back, we're not quite sure at the moment."
The ICC's board met via teleconference last week but is yet to make any firm decisions on changes to the international cricket calendar.
Paine, who has earnt significant plaudits for his leadership since taking over in the wake of the 2018 ball-tampering scandal, has not put an end date on his captaincy tenure.
Steve Smith's leadership ban following the Cape Town scandal ended last week, but Paine is eager to continue leading and has earnt the backing of key figures including coach Justin Langer and CA chief executive Kevin Roberts.
The wicketkeeper stressed the 2021-22 Ashes series is not on his mind, instead reiterating that the WTC final remains his – and the Test team's – only major long-term goal.
Favourable results against Bangladesh and India, and then in South Africa in early 2021 for a mooted three-Test tour, should secure Australia's spot in the final.
But a slip-up in any of those campaigns could open the door for New Zealand (third on 180 points with home WTC series), England (fourth on 146 points) or Pakistan (fifth on 140 points).
"Our team has got some goals, one of those is the ICC Test Championship final and winning that," said Paine. "I haven't looked any further than that.
"All players are really enjoying the points system and the fact each Test match counts to something and you're playing towards a premiership if you like."