Tim Paine has picked up six catches in his return to cricket as questions abound about whether the former Test skipper is still the right man to take the gloves for Australia in the Ashes.
The 36-year-old stepped down from the captaincy on Friday after it was revealed he sent sexualised messages and a naked image to a female Cricket Tasmania colleague in 2017.
Former players Mark Waugh and Shane Warne are among those who think it’s time for Australia to appoint a new wicketkeeper for the series opener against England on December 8.
Paine has declared he wants to play in the series and remains part of Australia’s Test squad.
He turned out for Tasmania’s second XI at Lindisfarne Oval in Hobart on Monday, a match marked as part of his comeback from a neck injury before the sexting scandal emerged.
Paine grabbed six catches, one of them a low chance to his right, and got through 65.5 overs of keeping without any visible trouble.
He is expected to slot in at number five when the Tigers bat in his first competitive match since April.
Cricket Tasmania high performance manager Simon Insley, who dead-batted questions from media about the scandal, said Paine was “ready to play cricket”.
“Whenever you go through challenging times you want to be around your mates and do what you do best,” Insley said.
“He’s an exceptional cricketer and he wants to play cricket and get ready for the Ashes. He wants to show signs of good form and show that he’s ready for selection.
“We all know Tim Paine, he is a very determined individual.”
Questions have been raised about the merits of keeping Paine in the Test team, given the scandal, his age, lack of cricket and the captaincy being a major string to his bow.
The four-day second XI fixture and a three-day Australian intra-squad match in Brisbane early next month will be his only hit-outs prior to the Ashes.
Former Test wicketkeeper Ian Healy believes Paine should play but said Alex Carey, who is in an extended Australia A squad, also deserves a chance.
Healy told SEN radio that selectors could go with Western Australia’s Josh Inglis or Queensland’s Jimmy Peirson if they wanted a long-term option.
Ex-Test captain Mark Taylor and former Victoria wicketkeeper Darren Berry believe Paine should be retained, given he holds the third highest batting average of all glovemen to have played for Australia.
Cricket Tasmania has said it became aware of the text messages in mid-2018, with the organisation and Cricket Australia clearing Paine of code of conduct breaches.
Insley said Tasmania’s second XI was excited to play with Paine regardless of what had happened in the past few days.
“This has been a very calculated return to cricket. If there were any concerns about his fitness he wouldn’t be playing a second XI game.”