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Cricket Australia (CA) has left the door open for Tim Paine to return the Test side after the former skipper decided to take an indefinite break from the sport in the wake of a sexting scandal.
Paine tearfully resigned as captain three weeks out from the start of the Ashes when it became clear that the controversy - involving a female former colleague at Cricket Tasmania - was going to be made public.
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CA's response to Paine drama came under fire, particularly after he was initially cleared of any wrongdoing in two separate investigations.
CA was made aware of the incident in 2018 but backed Paine to continue playing and captaining Australia at that juncture, desperate to restore the team's image after the Cape Town cheating crisis.
Cricket Tasmania accused the national governing body of hanging the former skipper out to dry after he'd admirably navigated CA out of a difficult transition from the ball-tampering controversy.
Coach Justin Langer has offered public and private support to Paine, flying to Hobart after being released from quarantine and keeping the door open for his "really close" friend to don the baggy green again.
The wicketkeeper initially planned to play this week's series opener in Brisbane then opted to take a mental-health break, prompting speculation he will never play for Australia again.
However, CA chief executive Nick Hockley says his organisation wants to see Paine back in the national setup "as quickly as possible".
"Would love to see him play again, for both his state and for Australia," Hockley told SEN.
"We want to see him back out there, playing and performing, as quickly as possible."
Tim Paine's playing opportunities limited
With the Sheffield Shield on hold for the time being, Paine would have little opportunity to press his credentials a Test recall, unless selectors want him to be part of a planned tour of Pakistan in March.
The fifth Test is expected to be staged at Paine's home ground, although Hockley shed little light on whether Hobart will win that bidding war.
CA has copped plenty of criticism in recent weeks regarding its approach to Paine, with the most notable coming from Cricket Tasmania chair Andrew Gaggin.
"At a time when CA should have supported Tim, he was evidently regarded as dispensable. The treatment afforded to the Australian Test captain by Cricket Australia has been appalling, and the worst since Bill Lawry over 50 years ago," Gaggin said.
Lawry was sacked in the 1970-71 Ashes and learned of his dismissal via the media.
Hockley, installed as chief executive on a caretaker basis in 2020 and given the job permanently almost a year later, said CA is trying to support Paine.
"The head coach has been down to see him, we've had members of our high performance set up go down to Tassie. The Tasmanian cricket community have put their arms around him," Hockley said.
"We are all very, very concerned - to make sure that Tim is well supported.
"A lot of respect for Tim for owning his mistake and our job now is to really support him."
Hockley repeatedly noted Paine made his own call to step down as captain, but "that was a decision that the board felt was appropriate".
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