Aussie cricket great Geoff Lawson says he doesn't believe Tim Paine will be "physically" ready for the start of the Ashes series in just over two weeks, and questions why selectors named him in the squad in the first place.
Paine made a promising return to action on Monday for Tasmania's second XI in Hobart after resigning as Test captain last Friday over a historical sexting scandal.
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The veteran wicketkeeper has been sidelined for months after undergoing neck surgery but said after he stood down as captain that he still wants to be part of Australia's Ashes side.
Paine grabbed six catches, one of them a low chance to his right, and got through 65.5 overs of keeping without any visible trouble in his first match since April.
Cricket Tasmania high performance manager Simon Insley, who dead-batted questions from media about the sexting scandal, said Paine was "ready to play cricket".
Lawson - who played 46 Tests for Australia and was part of two Ashes series triumphs in the 1980s - has cast doubts over Paine's ability to step up to Test level though.
The former quick says the 36-year-old's form before his neck injury, coupled with the nature of the problem and the fact he's a wicketkeeper, means selectors are taking a big risk by picking him for the Ashes.
"He's coming off surgery and he's played virtually no cricket," Lawson told Wide World of Sports.
"Neck surgery can be tricky and wicketkeeping is very physical, lots of diving and moving. It's Test cricket, it's five days and in Brisbane it will likely be hot and humid.
"Your body has to be ready to play Test cricket.
"Given that his form last year wasn't great, and physically I don't think he'll be ready for Brisbane, I just thought it was a stretch to name him in the squad, even when he was captain. I thought it required a bit more thought."
Lawson has joined the chorus of voices - which includes fellow Aussie greats Shane Warne and Mark Waugh - calling for Paine to be replaced in Australia's Test XI.
He believes wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey is the man who should take over the gloves instead of Paine.
"Carey's a terrific player, he's played for Australia in white-ball cricket, there's plenty of upside in picking Alex.
"For me, he's good to go, there's a couple of other names floating around, which is nice, it's good to have pressure on each of the positions. Someone like Josh Phillipe is just around the corner, but I think Alex Carey is the man."
Lawson's comments come after Australia's chairman of selectors George Bailey announced he will exclude himself from discussions if his personal relationship with Paine becomes a conflict of interest at the selection table.
George Bailey to recuse himself over Tim Paine selection
Bailey, who replaced Trevor Hohns as Australia's chairman of selectors earlier this year, is good friends with Paine through their time playing cricket together in Tasmania.
However, Bailey has revealed he will not take part in discussions about Paine's selection if the panel - which includes Tony Dodemaide and coach Justin Langer - isn't unanimous.
“If the panel was not in agreeance with Tim’s position going forward and it was going to come down to a vote, then I would step aside and leave that to Tony and Justin to work through,” Bailey told Peter Lalor and Gideon Haigh on the Cricket Et Cetera podcast.
“They’re both aware of that.”
Bailey and Paine played state cricket together for Tasmania, while they are also co-investors in gym franchise Body Bit.
“I feel like by saying that it feels like Tim is the only close friend I have and I think since the day that I was given the opportunity to have this role we’ve been aware that’s the case,” Bailey said.
“I have strong friendships and relationships that go back years with a number of players. I guess that can be viewed a number of ways. There could be a tendency to go easier or vice versa. I think you could go the other way and you could be harder on those players at times.
“I truly believe that having strong relationships with the players, I doubly make sure that I do the job that I have to the best of my ability and I understand that the decisions we make do have large ramifications, both positive and negative, for the players and their families, their livelihoods and their careers.
“It’s not something taken lightly and we put the work in because of that to make sure that we’re trying to make the best decision we can and that’s whether it’s with Tim or with anyone.”
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