Former Test captain Tim Paine ticked “all of the boxes” physically and emotionally before Tasmanian selectors made the unanimous call to select him for a Sheffield Shield return this week.
Paine flew out of Hobart with his teammates on Tuesday for the clash against Queensland at Allan Border Field Thursday, his first top-level game since a sexting scandal cost him the top job.
The 37-year-old stepped away from all forms of the game last year in the wake of revelations that he sent explicit phone messages to a Cricket Tasmania employee. The scandal ended his 35-Test career.
But new Tasmanian coach Jeff Vaughan said Paine walked in to his office in the middle of the year declaring his intention to return and after months of training selectors wanted “one of the world’s best wicket keepers in our side”.
Paine returned to club cricket in Tasmania last weekend and Vaughan saw enough to pick him for this week’s Shield opener.
“We have absolute faith and trust in Tim and his preparation,” Vaughan said on Tuesday.
“Physically he’s probably in the greatest spot of his physical career, emotionally he’s sound. He’s tricked all of the boxes to be available for selection.
“It was quite unanimous we wanted one of the world’s best wicket keepers in our side. “
Vaughan said the coaching staff had “no idea” what would happen when Paine first returned to training but was excited to have him in their team.
“He came into our office a couple of months ago and stated he was keen to get back in to training. At that stage we had no idea where it was going to lead,” he said.
“We invited him in to training, he’s trained really well. He’s batted beautifully in the nets. We’re really fortunate to have a wonderful cricketer but a wonderful human as well.”
Paine does not have a contract with Cricket Tasmania for the season but his Shield inclusion could also be a precursor to a Big Bash return. The Hobart Hurricanes have one spot on their playing roster still to fill.
Australian Test stars Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne have both been named for Queensland for the Shield clash.