Tim Paine’s journey as Australia’s captain

Tim Paine, the man who suffered pain and agony after getting his right index finger injured in 2010, thought that his career got over. And it got resurrected only in 2017 and it has been an upward journey for the current Test captain of Australia.

Backdrop of the situation:

On April 2011, in a charity match in Australia, Paine injured his finger while taking a catch from the fast bowler, Dirk Nannes, and required seven surgeries involving eight pins, a metal plate and a piece of hip-bone. This took away his most precious 2 years which could have made him the first-choice keeper for Australia across all formats.

He lost his place in the Australian team and made a comeback only after six years, against England in 2017. And fate had other plans for him, for sure.

The Sandpaper Scandal:

In the 3rd test of the 2018 test series against South Africa, Cameron Bancroft altered the condition of the ball using a yellow adhesive tape, which had grit and dirt. As Bancroft was caught guilty by a television camera for rubbing the ball with that tape i.e. sandpaper, the media questioned captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner. Both of them admitted their planned mischief and were banned by Cricket Australia for a year. Justin Langer was named the head coach of the Australia team in place of Darren Lehmann.

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The Captaincy Journey:

And then, the captaincy journey of Tim Paine started. Touted as the most matured member of the touring Australia side, he was officially sworn in as 46th test captain of Australia for the 4th and last test match against South Africa. Before starting the test match, he even made Australian team-mates shake hands with South African players as a goodwill gesture.

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Paine made an instant impact with the bat, scoring 62 runs off 96 balls in his first innings as captain, but Australia lost the match and the series too.

Paine captained the Australian team in a 5-match ODI series too but lost all the 5 ODI’s. He was then replaced by Aaron Finch.

There was another tough assignment for the Australian test team, a tour of UAE against Pakistan. Chasing a target of 462 runs, Australia wobbled at 252/5. Tim Paine rescued this new Australian team with a resilient 61* off 194 balls, and took the match to a draw. However, they lost the second test and subsequently, the series also.

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Come home series against India where his famous altercation with Rishabh pant happened, Australia lost the first test by just 31 runs. Paine scored a valiant 41 in chase of 323 runs, but Australia lost. Australia won the 2nd test, with Paine contributing 38 and 37 with the bat. Australia lost the 3rd test though, with Paine contributing 22 and 26, and drew the 4th test because of rain. So they lost the test series to India 2-1 for the first time ever on their home turf. Though Australia lost, his captaincy went head-to-head with that of Virat Kohli.

In early 2019, Australia won the home test series against Sri Lanka easily by 2-0 and this was the first test series win for Australia under Paine’s captaincy.

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Australia played the 5-test Ashes series at England. Australia won the 1st test handsomely by 251 runs with Steve Smith making 144 runs in his comeback to test cricket after the 1-year ban. Paine rotated the bowlers smartly, introducing Lyon on the 5th day, when the ball was spinning due to the cracks on the pitch.

The 2nd test ended as a draw, and England won the 3rd test by 1 wicket. Australia won the 4th test by 185 runs. Tim Paine, who was enduring a poor form, answered his critics with a sedate 58 runs in the 1st innings to put Australia near a total of 500. With Australia leading by 196 runs, Paine scored an unbeaten 23 off just 18 balls to give England a stiff target of 383 runs. Australia won by 185 runs and they assured an unassailable lead of 2-1.

However, Australia lost the 5th test and hence drew the series 2-2. This was also the first time since 2001 that Australia didn’t lose the Ashes in England. Paine also became the first captain after Steve Waugh to retain Ashes in England.

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Then came the home series against Pakistan and New Zealand. Australia won both the tests against Pakistan by an innings. New Zealand was mauled 3-0, with Australia winning each of the three tests by a margin of more than 240 runs.

Amid Corona pandemic, now came the home test series against India. Australia won the 1st test, which was a day-night match after a dramatic collapse of the Indian team saw them fold for their lowest ever test a total of 36 runs in 2nd innings. In the 1st innings of Australia, Paine played a captain’s knock, scoring 73* off just 99 balls to reduce the deficit by 53 runs. Australia won the test convincingly by 8 wickets.

In the 2nd test, however, Australia lost badly by the same margin (8 wickets). Tim Paine was controversially given not-out in the 1st innings, but scored only 13 runs. In the 2nd innings, he was controversially given out on 1 run, when he feathered a nick to Rishabh Pant off Ravindra Jadeja’s bowling.

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Can he avenge a comeback test-series win against India in the next two tests played at Sydney and Brisbane respectively? With the kind of backing he gives to his bowlers and fellow batsmen and a soft cheeky smile, can he turn the chapter for Australian cricket, given the team historically has been brash and ruthless? Only time will tell.

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