The Ashes: Former Australian captain Tim Paine taking leave of absence from cricket
Former test captain Tim Paine is taking indefinite leave from the game on mental health grounds, all but ruling him out of the start of the Ashes and casting extreme doubt over his future in international cricket.
It is quite likely now that Paine will not play any part in Australia’s defence of the urn this season and may have worn the baggy green for the final time.
Long-time heir apparent Alex Carey and Western Australia’s Josh Inglis are the two leading candidates to take Paine’s place behind the stumps. The news comes as Cricket Australia prepares to unveil Paine’s replacement as captain.
A week after stepping down as captain over the release of a lewd text exchange he shared with a former Cricket Tasmania staffer, Paine’s management confirmed the wicketkeeper would be taking time out of the game.
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“Confirming that @tdpaine36 is stepping away from cricket for an indefinite mental health break. We are extremely concerned for his and Bonnie’s well-being and will be making no further comment at this time,” Paine’s manager James Henderson tweeted on Friday morning.
Given his lack of match practice, it would be extremely difficult for Paine to take any part in the Ashes. Selectors now have the opportunity to make generational change behind the stumps and may be reluctant to alter their path once the new course is taken.
Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley said the organisation would support Paine.
“We recognise that this is an incredibly difficult time for Tim and his family and are committed to supporting them. We respect and understand Tim’s decision to have a break at this time to focus on his and his family’s wellbeing,” Hockley said.
“The National Selection Panel will meet in the coming days to discuss the final squad ahead of the first Ashes test on December 8.”
The Australian Cricketers Association said it was saddened by Paine’s situation.
First and foremost, the thoughts of the players and everyone at the ACA are with Tim and Bonnie,” ACA chief Todd Greenberg and chair Greg Dyer said in a joint statement.
“Family and health are more important than any game of cricket. It takes genuine courage to both recognise the need for help and to ask for it. Tim now needs some time and space and we support his decision.
“Tim made the decision to stand down from the captaincy with the best interests of the game at heart.
“We hope now that Tim’s best interests will also be respected.”
Paine, who underwent neck surgery in September, returned to the field in a second XI game for Tasmania on Monday, taking nine catches and making one and seven with the bat.
He was to make his comeback to state cricket in Tasmania’s one-day game against Western Australia, but told his state association he would be taking leave.
“Following discussions over the last 24 hours, Tim Paine has advised Cricket Tasmania that he will be taking a leave of absence from all forms of cricket for the foreseeable future,” Cricket Tasmania said in a statement released minutes before Henderson’s tweet.
“Tim’s decision makes him unavailable for selection for today’s Marsh One-Day Cup match against Western Australia. His place in the squad will be taken by Charlie Wakim.
“Cricket Tasmania will continue to support Tim and his family both professionally and personally over the summer.”
Tasmania coach Ali de Winter spoke on Thursday of the issues Paine was dealing with.
“He’s having some deep challenges. Having good people around him and his cricket mates is the best tonic he can have outside of his family,” de Winter said.
In an interview given in the hours after he resigned last Friday, Paine said he was struggling to cope.
“Not so well. I feel terrible, to be honest. Although Bonnie and I have both known about all this for three years, to have it played out like this is really distressing, and upsetting, and I’m really embarrassed. Really embarrassed,” Paine told News Corp.
“I feel sick for Bonnie, and for my family more than anything else.”
Paine played 35 tests for his country, 23 of them as captain after taking over from Steve Smith in the wake of the sandpaper scandal in South Africa in 2018.
Sydney Morning Herald