A tweet from an inspired cricket watcher summed up the feelings of many fans of Tasmania’s Tim ‘Kid’ Paine on news of his elevation to Test captaincy.
“Four months ago, Tim Paine was a highly criticised selection for #Ashes2017. Now he’s captain of Australia. #Perseverance #NeverGiveUp.”
It was a far more positive spin on Paine’s sudden rise than some, which have largely been along the line of “who?”.
Now Paine has the job of leading Australia’s Test cricket squad, following the standing down of skipper Steve Smith in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal.
Both assessments of the situation ring true, although diehard cricket fans are more than familiar with the 33-year-old Tasmanian’s long and bumpy road to reclaim his baggy green.
Married to Bonnie, with daughter Milla, Paine showed promise early with good performances behind the stumps as a junior.
A post shared by ❤Tim Paine and Travis Head❤ (@timpaine_travishead_world) on
“From a very young age, from when he was a teenager, he was regarded as a future Australian wicket keeper, maybe someone to take over after Gilchrist or Haddin even, and he really was outstanding,” Cricket Tasmania CEO Nick Cummins said.
At 16, Paine was offered a rookie contract with Tasmania and became Australia’s youngest-ever contracted player, making his first-class and one-day debuts for Tasmania in 2005.
Internationals would follow, with former Tasmanian coach Tim Coyle saying Paine was blessed with “all the good credentials to be a leader”.
“Even as a young player he still had the leadership qualities, which included being a very tough individual on the field,” Coyle said.
Paine would need every bit of that toughness in coming seasons, when injury would keep him from Test selection for seven years.
In 2010, the wicketkeeper-batsman had his right index finger broken while batting in a T20 game and endured seven surgeries to correct the injury which threatened to end his career.
Nick Cummins was witness to Paine’s arduous comeback.
“Last year, when he was contemplating retirement, he and I sat down,” Cummins said.
Tasmania’s Sheffield Shield team was in the doldrums, axing coach Dan Marsh and facing years in the wilderness.
“I spoke to him about how we were going through a pretty big transformation, how important it was to have leaders such as he and George Bailey and that we needed a few more years out of him yet,” Cummins said.
As it turned out, Paine’s time away from the game may have helped, not hindered, his fortunes, Cummins said.
“I think because he has missed quite a lot of cricket, his body is still young, his mind is still fresh and I think he’s got a lot of cricket left in him.”
‘He never gave up’
The return was complete after Paine was recalled to the Australian team for 2017/18 Ashes series, despite not wicket-keeping for Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield season.
“He never gave up the belief that he could get back, nor did he give up the belief of playing for his country again,” Coyle said.
He’s a great student of the game, understands the game very well, he’s got a very strong character, he’s a good communicator.
“He’s the sort of player people tend to follow, and when he speaks people listen.”
All the qualities of an inspiring, if reluctant, stand-in captain.
“I don’t think anyone wants to be selected as captain or given a role as captain in these circumstances, he would be much more comfortable continuing to do what he was doing behind the stumps as wicket-keeper and batting,” Coyle said.
“But he will step up into the breach and make sure he does a good job.”
Cummins agreed Paine was the best man for the job, but would not be one to bask in the glory of his short-term promotion.
With Australia’s cricketing reputation shot to pieces, topped off by a batting collapse and humiliating 322-run defeat, Paine takes the reins of a squad in turmoil, a situation not lost on Cummins.
“I daresay the last 24 hours have probably been some of the toughest in his career,” Cummins said.
Small consolation for Paine and the team is that it cannot get much worse.