Tim Paine in line for shock return to cricket after year-long absence

Tim Paine is pictured.
After returning to training in August, Tim Paine is closing in on a return for Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield. (Photo by PATRICK HAMILTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Tim Paine is in consideration to make a shock return to cricket for Tasmania, more than year after relinquishing the Test captaincy.

Having not played cricket since April 2021, the 37-year-old will be playing first class cricket for University, while also looking to regain Sheffield Shield selection for Tasmania.

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Paine stepped down from the Test captaincy after a sexting scandal which emerged in November of 2021, prompting a 12-month hiatus from the sport.

Though he missed the one-day season opener last weekend, Tasmania coach Jeff Vaughan said Paine would be 'up for selection' for the second match of the season.

While Paine has made no indication he intends to push to be selected for Australia once again, Vaughan said the former Test wicketkeeper was in good shape and that he'd been caught off-guard by his desire to play once more.

Vaughan said Paine's experience and leadership would be invaluable for Tasmania.

"That one sort of popped up from nowhere to be honest. He came and spoke to the CEO and myself one day and said he‘d like to come back and he’s certainly going to play cricket for University," Vaughan told ESPNcricinfo.

"So he’s been training with us most sessions the last five or six weeks.

"Physically, (he’s) going well, emotionally going well. I’m sure everyone would agree that we trust his wicketkeeping skill set, his leadership skill set, so he’s up for selection.

“Like any of our contracted players and like any of our players in Tasmanian premier cricket, he‘s up for selection and one we will certainly speak about.”

Paine has been training with Tasmania since August, and will most likely make a first grade return in the Tasmanian state competition this weekend.

Though he doesn't have a contract with Tasmania at the time of writing, his return to the fold was welcomed by Cricket Tasmania chief executive Dom Baker.

Baker was approached by Paine back in August to request permission to train with the side, which was granted.

“It was just great to see him come into my office and request permission to train,” Baker told The Australian.

“He started here as just a 16-year-old all those years ago and has been a part of our cricket ever since.

“He is training as an uncontracted player to get fit for club cricket, but if he proves to be anywhere near his best expect to see him playing state cricket again.

“All of Tasmania and I think most of Australia wants to see him finish his career on his own terms.”

Tasmanian cricket fans excited by prospect of Tim Paine comeback

Former Test captain Ricky Ponting, who was recently appointed as head of strategy for the Hobart Hurricanes, has openly stated his desire for Paine to again play for the BBL franchise.

Paine tearfully resigned as captain of Australia just three weeks out from the start of the 2021/22 Ashes series.

Cricket Australia was made aware of the incident in 2018 but backed Paine to continue playing and captaining Australia at that point in time, desperate to restore the team's image after the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.

When the messages became public it was Paine's decision to step down, but one which Cricket Australia supported and felt was appropriate.

At the time of Paine stepping away from cricket, CA chief executive Nick Hockley said his organisation wanted to see him back "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 is in line for selection for Tasmania after an 18-month hiatus from cricket following his decision to step down as captain of Australia. (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)
Tim Paine is in line for selection for Tasmania after an 18-month hiatus from cricket following his decision to step down as captain of Australia. (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)

Cricket Tasmania chairman Andrew Gaggin had previously blasted Cricket Australia for failing to support Paine after he was initially cleared of wrongdoing in 2018.

"In conversations I have had in recent days it is clear that the anger amongst the Tasmanian cricket community and general public is palpable," Gaggin said in a statement.

"Tim Paine has been a beacon for Australian cricket over the past four years and instrumental in salvaging the reputation of the national team after the calamity of Cape Town.

"Yet, at a time when (Cricket Australia) 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."

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