BRISBANE – Seven or eight pins and a plate in the top joint. Some recycled hip bone in the shattered end. Multiple operations and a lot of pain.
Persistent finger injuries have been become the story of Tim Paine’s life since he made his Test debut in 2010.
Now that the veteran wicket-keeper has won a recall for Australia to start the Ashes series this week, as a shock replacement for old friend Matthew Wade, Paine is determined to make it last.
“I’m not here for five minutes,” Paine told a news conference on Monday. “To be honest, I’m sick of talking about being the person who hurt his finger and what could have been six or seven years ago.
“Hopefully I can be sitting in a room like this in two or three years and we’re talking about the back end of my Test career, not ‘He could have been a good player back in 2009.’ That’s something that’s really exciting for me, is to be able to rewrite my story a bit.”
Paine broke his right index finger while batting in a Twenty20 match in late 2010. It took a long time to heal and he had setbacks because of concern over the fragile bone. Now the only thing that rattles him is the occasional jarring from the handle when the toe of his bat swipes the ground.
Despite his optimism, Paine’s against-the-odds comeback has been polarizing.
Ex-Australia captain and selector Allan Border described the selection of Paine above Wade and Peter Nevill as “bizarre,” and spin bowling great Shane Warne said it was a sign of confusion in the selections.
“He’s a good cricketer, Tim Paine, and I really wish him the best, but it is a strange one ... a real risky selection from the panel,” Border told Fox Sports. “All the keepers around the country will be scratching their head saying ‘what the hell is going on?’”
Paine and Wade sharpened their skills as kids using a tennis ball and racket during backyard games at Wade’s cousin’s house.
It was Wade’s return to Tasmania that meant Paine has been second-choice wicket-keeper even for his own state recently in the domestic competition, and led to him focusing more on the limited-overs game than the long-form of cricket.
As a brash young gloveman, Paine scored 287 runs and averaged 35.87 in his four Tests in 2010 – two in England against Pakistan and two in India where he scored 92 and 59. He also took 16 catches and a stumping.
He has played 26 ODIs for Australia, averaging almost 30 with the bat, and 12 Twenty20 internationals.
In first-class cricket that started in 2005, though, he has played just 91 matches for 4 077 runs at an average of 29.12 and taken 252 catches and 11 stumpings.
No keeper has permanently established himself as Brad Haddin’s replacement since 2014, with Wade being the latest fallback option because of his so-called ‘presence’ behind the stumps since an overall of the line-up in 2016.
Peter Nevill averaged 22.28 and took 61 catches in his 17 Test matches across 2015-16.
Wade played 22 Tests, averaging 28.58 across two stints that included a dozen Tests in 2012 and 2013, but he hasn’t been scoring enough runs and selectors have run out of patience.
Paine accepted Greg Chappell’s call to join a largely inexperienced Cricket Australia XI in a tour match against England in Adelaide, where he scored a half-century and took five catches, and backed it up with an unbeaten 71 in Tasmania’s drawn Sheffield Shield match against Victoria.
Even after that, Paine said he wasn’t expecting a recall.
“I was surprised, I won’t lie,” the 32-year-old gloveman said. “But the opportunity has come at a really good time for me. I’ve really started to bat well again and I’ll go into this test with some confidence. I’ve had some success in the few Tests I have played, so I’ll take some confidence from that.”
He said he’d reworked his batting technique and his grip in the last 10 months, and offered plenty of energy behind the stumps – if not the banter that was his earlier trademark.
Much has been made of Australia’s pace attack of Josh Hazelwood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, and Paine is eager to get to work.
“With our pace attack at the Gabba, with the bounce and carry it’s going to be pretty extraordinary,” he said. “Australia’s record at the Gabba is brilliant, so I certainly wouldn’t want to be one of the English top six.”