Tim Paine is making a comeback to cricket this summer with Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield, nearly 12 months after he resigned the Test captaincy due to a sexting scandal.
At 37, the wicketkeeper is highly unlikely to get a recall to the national team, particularly since Alex Carey has established himself as the first-choice gloveman.
Paine is not under contract with Cricket Tasmania but he has been in negotiations with CEO Dominic Baker about a comeback and The Australian has reported he has been training with the Tigers during their pre-season preparations.
“All of Tasmania and I think most of Australia wants to see him finish his career on his own terms,” Baker told The Australian. “He is training as an uncontracted player to get fit for club cricket, but if he proves to be anywhere near his best expect to see him playing state cricket again.”
He has kept a low profile since his emotional resignation in the lead-up to last year’s Ashes series, saying he needed to take an indefinite break from the game to look after his mental health.
Paine was back among his international teammates, including Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc late last month when they attended Pat Cummins’ wedding in Byron Bay.
Cricket Tasmania’s grade competition, the Premier League, starts in early October. Tasmania’s opening Sheffield Shield game begins on October 6.
“We can confirm that Tim has returned to training with the aim at this stage to play in the CTPL this season,” a Cricket Tasmania spokesperson said.
The governing body declined further comment but Paine has another powerful ally in fellow Tasmanian and ex-Test skipper Ricky Ponting.
Ponting, recently appointed as head of strategy for Hobart Hurricanes, has openly stated his desire for Paine to again play for the BBL franchise.
Paine quit the Test captaincy after admitting involvement in a lewd text exchange with a female former employee of Cricket Tasmania in late 2017.
Cricket Australia secretly investigated at the time and exonerated Paine of wrongdoing, but he stepped down on the eve of last year’s Ashes series when made aware the text exchange would become public.
Paine’s successor as Test captain, Pat Cummins, said the wicketkeeper hasn’t been forgotten.
“Someone like Painey, firstly as a mate you want to make sure he’s okay. We all make mistakes,” Cummins said last week. “He did the wrong thing but he tried to fix the situation as best as he could … I really feel for him.”
Despite being in his late 30s, Paine has always been a super-fit player and could force his way back into Tasmania’s Shield side and would also be a chance to earn a contract with the Hobart Hurricanes or another BBL franchise.
However, with Cummins enjoying instant success as skipper with a 4-0 Ashes rout, followed by a series victory in Pakistan and a 1-1 split on the Sri Lankan tour, the national team has moved on from Paine.
Carey has made an encouraging start to his Test career, averaging 32.21 with the bat and despite a few costly fumbles with the gloves, settling into the wicketkeeper’s role well.
Paine was renowned as one of international cricket’s most skilful keepers during his time in the national team, which included a three-year reign as captain after stepping into the role following the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018.
He played 35 Tests and ODIs as well as 12 T20s for Australia. In the 23 matches as skipper, he won 11 times, had four draws and suffered eight losses.
Paine allegedly sent sexually explicit phone messages to a Cricket Tasmania employee late in 2017 before he became Test captain.
In announcing his resignation, Paine said it was “a difficult decision but the right one”.
“At the time, the exchange was the subject of a thorough CA Integrity Unit investigation, throughout which I fully participated in and openly participated in. That investigation and a Cricket Tasmania HR investigation at the same time found that there had been no breach of the Cricket Australia Code of Conduct.
“Although exonerated, I deeply regretted this incident at the time, and still do today. I’m sorry for the damage that this does to the reputation of our sport. And I believe that it is the right decision for me to stand down as captain, effective immediately.”
Tasmania begin their Sheffield Shield campaign away to Queensland at Allan Border Field in Brisbane on October 6.