Tim Paine, ball-tampering, Australia, captain
Tim Paine (left) gives his first toss interview as Australian captain © Getty Images

Extraordinary circumstances led to Tim Paine’s appointment as Australia’s Test captain this week. The ball-tampering controversy led to the bans of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft as Paine got elevated in the ranks.

Not long back, Paine was on verge of announcing retirement from the game. A shock comeback after seven years followed, and eight Tests on, the captaincy of Australia, during their greatest crisis, rests on Paine. Paine does not even have a central contract with Cricket Australia (CA), drawing fractions of someone like Smith or Warner. All that will definitely change.

Born December 8, 1984, Timothy David Paine, at 33, became Australia’s 46th Test captain. The saying goes that the Australian cricket captain is the second-most important person in the country after the Prime Minister. Elated or gutted? The guess is as good as yours.

You want that marvellous dream glass office. You always aim for it till realism hits. At times it gets too good for you. You finally get to own it when the glass is in tatters. You have to rebuild it and run the business. What would be the feeling?

From a talented prodigy to the oblivion to the second most important person, Suvajit Mustafi looks at Paine’s timeline.

1. Beach cricket at Lauderdale

Young Tim grew up playing quite a bit of beach cricket in Lauderdale, a suburb of Hobart. He lived next to the beach and the family had a cricket pitch in the backyard.

2. Australian Football League (AFL)

As a boy, Paine was considered good enough to make the Australian Football League (AFL). Elder brother Nick is a former footballer in the Tasmanian Football League, while uncle Robert Shaw is a former Essendon footballer who has coached Fitzroy and Adelaide in AFL.

3. Prodigy, rich kid

In 2001, at the age of 16, Paine became Australian domestic cricket’s youngest-ever contracted player. He received an A$10,000 contract from the board. Paine was quoted by ESPNCricinfo: “These new contracts are a great idea; I’m pretty happy about them anyway!

4. Ponting fan

Paine hails from Tasmania. It is no surprise that he looked up to his state mate and national icon, Ricky Ponting. Later, Paine would make his debut under Ponting’s captaincy.

5. ‘Go and buy yourself some runs, Santa’

Brett Geeves, former Australian and Tasmanian cricketer, wrote in foxsports.au on 11-year-old Paine’s combativeness: “The Kid, dressed in full Kooka kit — as if he is already sponsored — and a swagger defying his age, size and cricket experience. Awaiting him is the furnace of third grade cricket. And a man, with ball in hand, who had served his penance … for armed burglary.

“The first ball is fast. So fast that it hits the keeper’s glove on the rise and he is standing damn near on the fence (yes, the ground was your stock standard third grade facility with 25m straight boundaries).

“The follow-up from the tattoo-heavy bowler is just as fierce. ‘I don’t give a F*** how small you are or how much your parents love you, I am going to f***ing KILL you.’”

Paine top-scored for his side. The opponent captain, ageing Brett Smith, had sledged little Paine. During the customary handshake, Paine met his sledging nemesis.

Tim Paine: Forgotten, almost retirement to Australia's 46th Test captain
Tim Paine: Forgotten, almost retirement to Australia's 46th Test captain

“Rather than accept the outstretched hand of the opposition captain and third grade stalwart, Paine flicked him a 10c piece and said: ‘Go and buy yourself some runs, Santa.’” Geeves further adds.

6. The leader

Paine has led teams at different levels. He was the vice-captain of Australian Under-17 side and led them in Under-19 (including the 2004 World Cup, where Australia lost the Plate Final, against Bangladesh). He has also captained Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL.

George Bailey, his Tasmania captain and a former Australian captain, calls Paine “a very good cricket brain.”

Back in 2011, Steve Waugh had predicted Paine would lead Australia some day.

7. First-Class debut and progress…

Having made his List A debut in 2005-06, Paine finally played First-Class cricket later that season, four days after turning 21. He scored 0 and 17. In 2009 he impressed for Australia A when Pakistan A toured. With Adam Gilchrist gone, Paine seemed to be a good option as an opener-wicketkeeper in shorter formats. He impressed with 136 in an unofficial ODI, and made his way into the Australian side.

8. Australia cricketer

Paine made his international debut in an ODI against Scotland, replacing an injured Brad Haddin. He enjoyed a good run for Australia. In his fifth ODI he scored his maiden fifty, against England at Lord’s. And in the same series, in his seventh ODI, Paine would slam his only hundred.

9. Debuting with Smith

In the Lord’s Test between Pakistan and Australia, Paine debuted alongside a blonde 21-year-old leg-spinner-all-rounder, Steven Smith. Yes, Paine batted above Smith, scoring 7 and 47. He also effected 6 dismissals. Smith got 1 and 12 in the Test and picked up 3 wickets.

In only his third Test, he struck a fine 92 against India at Mohali, and followed it with 59 at Bengaluru.

Ironically, he made his comeback under Smith’s captaincy in 2017 and within four months, replaced the best Test batsman as Australia’s captain.

10. Injury

Paine broke his index finger in late 2010 during an exhibition match, being hit by Dirk Nannes. The finger kept bothering him and his wicketkeeping appearances ceased to be frequent. He lost his Australia spot and seemed to fade away.

11. Retirement, well almost

With form having eluded him and with question mark over his place in Tasmania, Paine weighed his options and considered retirement in 2016-17. He received a job offer from his long-time kit associates Kookaburra.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that Tim was weighing up his future last year, and we had a job vacancy that deals with our contracted players and sponsored associations that he showed some interest in as he considered life after cricket.” Shannon Gill, spokesman for Kookaburra told The New Daily. “From our end it appeared to be a pretty close-run decision as he weighed it all up, but thankfully he made the right decision to keep playing.”

12. Not good for Australia, but good enough for the world

Paine played a role in getting cricket back in Pakistan. He was a part of the World XI squad that toured Pakistan for 3 T20Is last September. Paine’s selection came as a surprise because he was not a regular for Australia.

13. The shock selection in The Ashes

With Matthew Wade moving to Tasmania, Paine was not even their first-choice wicketkeeper-batsman. He played just 3 Shield games in 2016-17 and averaged 26. Australia, wanting to move beyond Wade, made a surprise move by picking Paine for the 2017-18 Ashes.

The move was criticised by many, including several former cricketers. Stuart MacGill had famously lashed out at the selectors: “Ashes selections … made by morons masquerading as mentors.”

Paine repaid the faith with 192 runs at 48 and 26 dismissals.

14. Joint-most consecutive Tests missed by an Australia

Paine did not play a Test between Bengaluru 2010 and Brisbane 2017. He missed 78 Tests, the joint-most by an Australian. Brad Hogg had also missed 78, between October 1996 and April 2003.

15. 46th Australian captain, 5th wicketkeeper-captain

Billy Murdoch was a part-time wicketkeeper who led Australia, followed by Jack Blackham. Barry Jarman and Adam Gilchrist often filled the roles as stand-in captains. Tim Paine is a full-time wicketkeeper-captain.

Paine became captain under most controversial circumstances. Smith and Warner were banned for a year and stripped off leadership roles following their roles in pre-planning the ball-tampering incident, which got caught on television. Paine led on the fourth day of the Cape Town Test and was announced full-time captain two days later.   

16. Chilled-out bloke and a loving father

Paine is a relaxed person outside cricket, or at least that is how his close ones describe him. As per The Australian: “Having spent so much time on the outer, Paine has avoided being associated with the big-spending, big-ego cricketers who fought tooth and nail for a big pay rise. Friends say he is a steady, solid character. There are no massive property portfolios and glamorous celebrity circles. He is fond of a joke but hardly a larrikin.”

His life used to revolve around cricket, but once their first child Milla was born, lives changed for Tim and wife Bonnie. Cricket became just a game, a day job. He admits, “You get home and you see her and you don’t really care (about cricket).”

17. Franchise cricket

Paine plays for Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL and played in the IPL for the now defunct Pune Warriors. He was bought US$ 2,70,000.

18. Of course, he can sledge

For all the talks of the change in culture of Australian cricket and doing away with sledging, is the new Aussie captain any different? Well, do not go by the baby face. Paine is a sledger, but one must agree that he has his ways. He talks of numbers and history of dismissals. Here he is doing the same to Luke Wright in BBL 2014:

Isn’t Paine an incredible sports story still in the writing? How he develops a fresh culture in the side and steers forward the under-strength Australian side in UAE and the tough summer will mark his legacy.