Tim Paine has bucked the trend. Picture: Getty
Tim Paine has bucked the trend. Picture: Getty

Paine rewriting 100 years of cricket history

For more than a century Australian cricket has had a theory that if you are the drummer in the band you should not be lead singer as well.

That is, wicketkeepers should not be burdened by the demands of captaincy.

But Tim Paine's exceptional performance as an Australian captain this summer has posed the question whether keepers of prior generations could have done the job as well and deserved more opportunities than they got.

Rod Marsh was beaten by Kim Hughes for the job when Greg Chappell was unavailable. Marsh wanted it and maybe he should have got it.

Tim Paine has bucked the trend. Picture: Getty
Tim Paine has bucked the trend. Picture: Getty

Ian Healy never captained Australia in a Test and was not really required to because he played the majority of his career under Allan Border and Mark Taylor.

At least one Queensland Test bowler felt Healy was the best leader he played under after having being directed by him at state level but when Taylor's form was wobbling at Test level Healy was not sure whether he wanted the job had it come up. It didn't.

Adam Gilchrist captained Australia in six Tests but did it more out of duty than desire.

Only four keepers have captained Australia in Tests and none in more than the eight managed by the prince of glovemen, Jack Blackham, in the 1800s.

Paine's performance this summer, in its own steady, unruffled way, has been as impressive as any Australian captain of recent times despite the fact that, results wise, there is not a lot to show for it.

 

Wicketkeeper of the century Ian Healy never captained Australia.
Wicketkeeper of the century Ian Healy never captained Australia.

 

There have been many sleepless nights among the coaching ranks and selectors and players yet Paine has been like the lighthouse standing firmly as the brutal forces of nature pound against it.

Imagine if you had shown Paine a crystal ball this time last year and said he would be captain because Smith and Warner would be banned.

That alone would have been a big enough shock, never mind the news that in his first home summer 84 would be the best offering from an Australian batsman in the first five Tests and no Australian paceman would get an lbw in that time.

And, just to top it off, the two vice-captains (Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh) chosen to support him would vanish from the team through injury and poor form and his two senior batsmen - Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja - would barely fire a shot in the Tests all summer.

Given the job of mopping up all of this mess and keeping as well - at age 34 - Paine could have been forced to the end of his tether but there is a stoic edge to his game that justifies Justin Langer's claim Paine is the toughest pretty boy he's seen.

Every Paine press conference has the same even-keeled, not-too-up-not-to-down-vibe about it.

Significantly, his glove work has been excellent, particularly over the stumps where his silky grabs off the spinners are of comparable standard to anything seen in recent decades in the Australian cricket.

Most outstanding captains get their reputations on the back of great teams.

Clive Lloyd had Michael Holding and Andy Roberts and company, Mike Brearley had Ian Botham and Bob Willis, Richie Benaud had Alan Davidson and Don Bradman had himself.

 

Rod Marsh was beaten to the captaincy by Kim Hughes.
Rod Marsh was beaten to the captaincy by Kim Hughes.

 

Mark Taylor had Glenn McGrath bowling from one end and Shane Warne the other and Steve Waugh ready to gorge himself in the middle order.

Paine has not had this luxury.

It's not as if his field placings are the work of Albert Einstein, or his motivational addresses stolen from Winston Churchill's playbook.

It's just that he has remained calm, relaxed and focused during a time when almost everyone else is acutely stressed.

You only fully appreciate his worth when you ask who would captain the side if he wasn't there.

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News Corp Australia


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