Paine finally starts batting again
Tim Paine has conceded he was nervous when he batted in the nets this week after spending nearly a year out of the game with a finger injury. Paine has been chosen as the gloveman for the Australia A tour of England in July and it will give him a chance to prove he can still be an option for Australian selection despite being overtaken by Matthew Wade in the national wicketkeeping queue.
It has been a tough 18 months for Paine, who made his Test debut in 2010 when Australia played Pakistan in England, and retained the position for the tour of India later that year. In November 2010 he broke the index finger on his right hand while batting against Dirk Nannes in an exhibition match and while he was able to play during 2011, he missed the entire 2011-12 summer after breaking the finger again during pre-season training with Tasmania.
But Paine believes the time off has allowed him to heal properly, and he has been training at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane ahead of the Australia A tour. Keeping wicket has not been a problem for Paine during his training but it was only this week that he returned to batting, and he said it would take some time to get used to a new pair of batting gloves designed to give his finger extra protection.
"The finger is going really well," Paine said. "It has been a long 16 or 18 months. I'm glad to be back now ... I've had my first hit against bowlers today and I'm training wicketkeeping more, that's pretty much at 100%. I'll build that up over the next four or five weeks before I head off to England. It's going well.
"I was a bit nervous [when batting]. It's been a long time. I've got some new gloves made up from Kookaburra and Alex Kountouris, the Australian physio, has put even more protection on that. That's something I have to get used to as well, I have to hold the bat slightly differently, because there's a lot of padding and a lot of tape on the fingers. That's something that will take time but I'll get that right over the next month or so."
Paine has plenty of training to catch up on. Not only did he miss all of last summer, he spent hardly any time with the Tasmania squad, given leave by the state coach Tim Coyle to pursue other activities. He said the time off had helped keep his mind fresh and prevented him from trying to return too quickly, which had been a problem when he first broke the finger in 2010.
"Last summer I didn't do a hell of a lot of cricket, I had a bit to do with the Big Bash with the [Hobart] Hurricanes but stayed away from any sort of training and had plenty of time off, away from cricket, away from Bellerive Oval, which was really good," he said. "It's got me in a good frame of mind now, I'm nice and fresh and excited to be back.
"The first one I struggled a bit more because hanging around and wanting to do stuff and not being able to was frustrating. Then every time I'd try to do something it would break again, or something would go wrong. That was frustrating. It was important this time to just get away for four or five months. I didn't even try and pick up a cricket bat or catch a ball in that whole period. I didn't think too much about cricket. I spent a bit of time in Melbourne and had a good time recharging."
But while Paine was recuperating, he remained in the minds of John Inverarity and the rest of the Australian selection panel. Although Paine, 27, has watched his childhood friend Matthew Wade, 24, grab his opportunity in the baggy green and score a Test century against West Indies, a strong summer for Tasmania would ensure Paine was firmly in the frame once again for national selection.
The Australia A squad is set to play two three-day games against Derbyshire and Durham, and two four-day games against the England Lions, in July and August.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here