England Lions v Australia A, Edgbaston, 4th day August 17, 2012

Paine opens up on mental battle

Paul Edwards at Edgbaston
Tim Paine looked destined to be Australia's future wicketkeeper, but now he is just grateful to be playing any cricket after a serious finger injury which put his career in doubt

Australia A 308 for 9 dec (Cowan 73, Paine 59, Hughes 51, Harris 6-102) drew with England Lions240 for 5 (Kieswetter 112*)

Tim Paine's finger is swollen, and studded with the marks of five operations. Maybe it always will be.

Since Paine, the Tasmanian wicketkeeper-batsman, broke his right index finger in the Australian Cricketers' Association "All-Stars" T20 game on November 21 2010, he has had a plate inserted, the finger break again and the plates come loose. There have been five operations, and for the last two of them bone was taken, first from Paine's wrist, then from his hip, in order to help the finger knit together.

"There's a plate and eight pins in there holding my finger," said Paine, who played four Tests for Australia in 2010. "I still get pain but it's nothing like it used to be. It was always in the way. It hurt when I was putting on a jumper or when I was grabbing a toothbrush or a pen without thinking. I've had plenty of issues with the finger."

All of which leads one to think that the abandonment of the last day of Australia A's unofficial Test against the England Lions at Edgbaston does not come as too much of a disappointment to Paine, especially coming at the end of a four-match tour in which he has, at last, proved his fitness in a raft of ways including a fluent 59 off 78 balls.

For since Dirk Nannes broke Paine's finger in what some might regard as a "Mickey Mouse" event, the 27-year-old has played just seven List A games, two T20s and half a dozen first-class matches, four of them on the trip which ended in Birmingham this week. He has, to all intents and purposes, missed two full seasons of domestic cricket in Australia. Now he reckons he is back.

"For me the whole idea was to come over here and play," said Paine. "I've had no pressure on me from selectors or coaches. It was just about getting back into playing competitive cricket. I've started my innings pretty well and the last innings here was a huge boost to the confidence.

"I've also got my wicketkeeping back to where it was in a pretty quick period. I got what I wanted from the trip and I can go home with some confidence that I'm back to my best for the start of the Australian summer. I've gained a lot of confidence from the trip and I'm going back in a completely different headspace to the one I was in when I came over here. I had a few doubts because missing two years' cricket is a lot of time."

If there was a moment in which Paine proved both his mental and physical fitness, it came barely half an hour into the first day of the Lions match at Old Trafford. Mitchell Johnson, bowling fast and aggressively, speared a delivery into Joe Root's body which he could only glove down the leg side. Paine dived across and pouched the ball.

"To be taking catches like that where I just see the ball and throw my hand at it is a sign that I'm over any sort of scarring." said Paine. "Things are happening without my thinking about them. I've just spoken with the coaches and we feel that my keeping's back to where it was before I had the injury."

All the same, Paine still needs a guard, which is taped below the second knuckle of the index finger, and his gloves are specially reinforced. This is necessary to protect the new bone and it will have to be in place for a year or so. Then he hopes to remove either the guard or the padding in the gauntlet. Whatever is required Paine has made major progress in dealing with the psychological impact of a major injury.

"There was mental scarring before I came here or attended the Australian Centre of Excellence," said Paine. "I had some bad memories of playing with it or wanting to catch a ball that was coming at 150kph and not being able to do it.

"These last six or seven weeks have been really good in getting that out of my mind. My keeping's gone well and batting-wise I've probably got to the stage when I was just playing cricket for the first time in a long time. Even when I get hit it now, it hurts for a couple of seconds whereas before it would hurt for five or six overs."

And yet the most impressive thing about Paine's long journey back to sporting fitness is that he is now able to put the game of cricket in its proper perspective as merely a glorious expression of humanity's competitive spirit.

"In a good way cricket's become less important to me," said Paine. "I love playing and I would love to come back to England and win an Ashes Test, but if I don't, I won't be too fussed as long as I've given myself the best chance of doing so. I've learned to take cricket a little less seriously.

"So it's interesting when people say you must be really struggling because you've had two years' out with injury. I had a broken finger and in the whole scheme of things it's not that big a deal. I've a long time left in the game and everything else in my body makes me feel like I'm 21.

"I can sit around and feel sorry for myself, but ultimately, I had a broken finger, not a broken back."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ray on August 21, 2012, 0:00 GMT

    Well this is nice; civilised chat. I must confess to have WUMed in the past but I'll try to keep this post honest.

    Based on the ODI & A matches, there looks to be a dearth of young batting talent in Oz currently. Is this a fair assessment and where will this leave you for the Ashes series next year? (Watson, Clarke, Ponting & Hussey are all getting on).

    This is not a dig: We've got our own problems: Strauss can't buy a run (and there ain't many alternatives - Root & Carberry both untested); Cook & Trott have been inconsistent this year; Bairstow & Taylor are both still learning. Bresnan has gone off the boil & Broad - today apart - has been rubbish with bat & ball. Oh yes, nearly forgot; there's a man with a monster ego to sort out as well!

  • Andrew on August 20, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    @HatsforBats - mate, actually I wasn't saying they were not! I was commenting that at the point in time that @Cricketolympian commented, nobody here had been chest beating! I know where he was coming from though. With respect to Paine & Wade, they have performed pretty well in their brief International careers & there is nothing they have done so far to suggest they can't cope with Test cricket. So from that nagle they are certainly world class & I think Wade had the potential to be the best Keeper/Batsmen in the game. I do think Prior is the best atm, but under a strict interpretation of the parameters @Cricketolympian put fwd - IMO, he is not! I would suggest that when some people use the Term World Class, they maybe meaning a step up on someone who has "merely" represented their country, (maybe performs well as opposed to represent?). I think Paine & Wade would get gigs in any Test team in the world atm except India & Saffas, (SL?)!!!!!

  • kieran on August 19, 2012, 15:48 GMT

    @ Meety; sorry mate, I beg to differ (if I do, I rarely disagree with you) but Wade & Paine ARE world class. They are both talented players and have earned their stripes. Any person who represents their country is world class. By the by, all talk of Haddin is sad but true. Like much of Australia's talent through the 90's we have lost a generation to apathy born from lack of opportunity and poor management.

  • kieran on August 19, 2012, 12:46 GMT

    It's great to see Paine back in action, he's a class performer and can only add to the strength of our national teams. With the dearth of young performing batsmen in Aus it is not out of the question that Paine, Wade, & Neville could all find themselves in national colours, or whites.

  • Andrew on August 18, 2012, 21:57 GMT

    @Cricketolympian - also by YOUR definition - Prior is NOT "world class" as a) He has only played 3 times in India & 5 times in SL, b) only played the Saffa 7 times (not inc Lord's) with a batting ave of 30. So under the criteria you just published - he has only played 15 matches of note! In those matches he has done reasonably well with the gloves & averages mid to high 30s with the bat!!!!! (for the record he is IMO the best keeper/batsmen in Tests atm).

  • Andrew on August 18, 2012, 21:45 GMT

    @jezzastyles on (August 18 2012, 14:20 PM GMT) - like I said I think the NSP have a different view. I too think that Haddin is past it, I think Oz were lucky to have him straight after Gilly, but it's now Wade's position (IMO). Good to have Wade & to a lessor extent Neville barking at his heels! @Cricketolympian on (August 18 2012, 07:27 AM GMT) - WHERE on this site did anyone on this article say Paine or Wade are World Class? One comment by @landl47 (a Pommy fan), stated that he thought Paine was a "test-class" player!!! There was a comment by @IndianInnerEdge, (Indian fan????) who used the word "quality" (oh no!). ALSO - whilst I don't disagree with what you say about proven performances, the reality is, that based on 3 tests - Wade is better or on par with most keepers doing the rounds in Tests. The onus is on Wade to keep backing up his standard moving forward.

  • Jeremy on August 18, 2012, 14:20 GMT

    @Cricketolympian: Fair comment. Much like the word "great", it tends to get over-used as well. But they are both good-quality prospects, and I sincerely hope that Wade gets the opportunity to register 50+ test matches in due course. You're also 100% correct in relation to Prior; he's the best WK currently playing in tests. @Meety: Haddin seemed to have too many lapses in concentration for my liking. I can recall quite a few "howlers" that he dropped. He certainly wasn't of the standard set by his predecessor (strictly as a gloveman, any comparisons to Gilchrist as a batsmen are simply unfair on Haddin). Time for the ACB to move on; we already have the depth in that position.

  • Alex on August 18, 2012, 12:27 GMT

    @Cricketolympian- surely you have to add MS Dhoni and Kumar Sangakkara to that list (I know Sangakkara has given up the gloves in recent times but still...), agree with the point you're making though.

  • Warrick on August 18, 2012, 9:46 GMT

    @cricketolympian-well said, couldn't agree more

  • Gordon on August 18, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    Warren Smith I have no doupt that Peter Nevill will play for Australia at some stage it is just a question of when. I had seen him play once and he was ok but for some reason my dad didn't like him. But I will say this he proberly needs to keep on making runs in the other forms of the game maybe when Haddin goes it will free him up to get more chances. The shorter forms of the game he doesn't do very well in so that makes me think he isn't really a big hitter of the cricket ball. For some reason Victoria passed up the chance to get him in their squad some years back but they passed on him and of course he went to NSW. Haddin in the end does need to do what is best for Cricket Australia but also to do what is best for his state also.

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