Paine relishing captaincy challenge
Tim Paine will lead a youthful Prime Minister’s XI team against England tomorrow that serves to offer an early insight into the future of Australian cricket.
The state of the game Down Under has become a hot topic this summer following Australia's 3-1 Ashes defeat, when they were beaten by an innings on three occasions.
Australia, so dominant for the best part of two decades, have endured a nightmare 12 months, during which they have failed to win a series in any format of the game since their tour of New Zealand last March.
In contrast to those fortunes has been the rise of the 26-year-old Paine who, after impressing on his first Test tours against Pakistan and India midway through last year, has been touted by former Australian stars as a potential skipper of his country.
The Tasmanian was last week promoted to vice-captain of Australia’s Twenty20 team and will lead out the Prime Minister’s XI tomorrow in a match that will also feature the upcoming batting talents of Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson as well as young pace bowlers James Pattinson and Trent Copeland.
Paine has described the match in Canberra as an audition of sorts for his captaincy credentials, but, with Ricky Ponting still in charge of the Test team and Michael Clarke the man in waiting, he knows just earning a place in the senior team is his main aim at present.
“I’m very honoured to have the captaincy of the Prime Minister’s XI and to be spoken about by some of the great names of Australian cricket in that fashion (of being a future Australia captain),” he said.
“I think this match probably is a bit of an audition, but as I’ve said in the past couple of days that’s probably a long way away for me at the moment.
“I’m just purely concentrating on the next few weeks, getting back into cricket and whatever happens down the track happens.
“But if I can get myself into a position to play enough cricket for Australia even to be considered for that job then that would be fantastic. As I said, that’s a long way off.”
Despite his good form against Pakistan and India, when he took over the wicketkeeper’s gloves from the injured Brad Haddin, Paine relinquished his position back to the veteran for the Ashes.
Haddin was one of the few Australians to enjoy a good series against England and, while Paine knows he may have to bide his time before ousting him from the team, he is determined to be ready should the chance arrive.
He is hopeful he can push his claims during the upcoming Twenty20 and one-day internationals and has not given up hope of forcing his way into the World Cup squad, either as a wicketkeeper or specialist batsman.
“There’s obviously going to be some opportunities coming up,” he added.
“It’s up to me to prepare myself as well as I possibly can and if I’m lucky enough to be in that 15 for the World Cup, or something happens to Brad, or if I can play in a role as a batsman, then I’ve got to be ready to grab it.
“Brad’s still the number one keeper in all formats. He’s just come off a good Ashes series himself. Any role I can get to play in the Australian team I’ll grab with both hands.”
One man at the opposite end of his career, Brett Lee, will also line up in Canberra as he aims to make his own late push for a World Cup place.
Lee retired from Test cricket following recurring injuries 12 months ago, but, after concentrating on limited overs in domestic cricket for New South Wales, the 34-year-old has warned he is back to his express pace best.
“I’ve been bowling 12 overs each match in the 45-over competition, which is more overs than I could bowl in a 50-over match,” he said.
“I’m really happy with the way the ball has been coming out and have enjoying it this season. It’s easier on my body not bowling five days straight.
“My pace is back to 150kph so I’m really happy with where it is at. I don’t look at 34 and think I’m past it. I think there are a few good years ahead of me.
“I love it when people write you off and say you won’t be back, or a doctor says you probably won’t get back.
“Ten or 12 ops later I’m still hanging in there. If the body still feels good I’ll try to keep playing. I hope to be in the World Cup team and then let’s see what happens.”
The Prime Minister’s XI have been forced into a late change ahead of tomorrow’s game, with Sam Miller replacing the injured Nic Maddinson.