Paine firms up for one-day debut
Brad Haddin, Australia's first-choice wicketkeeper, arrived in England for the Ashes as "the guy who replaced Adam Gilchrist". His understudy, Graham Manou, could have crept through the tour without being recognised by anyone outside the team had he not done so well during the Edgbaston Test after Haddin broke a finger.
When Manou hurt his hand at the end of that game it later resulted in Chris Hartley, the Queensland gloveman, stepping in for the tour game at Canterbury. On Friday, Australia will use their fourth specialist wicketkeeper when Tim Paine, a Tasmanian, makes his one-day international debut against Scotland in Edinburgh.
The constant trials are being employed for two reasons: Haddin is back home with a broken left ring finger, and the selectors want to find the second-best gloveman in the Test and limited-overs arenas. Manou's silky skills won him a baggy green while Paine, who is 24, is being examined for broader duties in the future. In three weeks Paine should have appeared in eight ODIs and two Twenty20s. By then the team's decision makers will know if he can make it. "It's not ideal for Brad or Australian cricket, but I hope to do as well as I can in the ODIs," Paine said. "Obviously I'm very excited."
His call-up earlier in the month was a shock - "I thought I was nowhere near in the mix" - but by the fifth Ashes Test he was the official back-up for Haddin. It wasn't the best week to choose to join the Australians for the first time, with the side handing over the Ashes at The Oval, but it didn't diminish the experience. "It helped me to relax and I'm ready to play," he said, having assisted in the dressing room and gained some international tips.
Paine, who will become Tasmania's first international wicketkeeper since Roger Woolley in the 1980s,, is really only famous at the Bellerive Oval, the home ground of his state team. He impressed during a decorated junior career that included being captain of the Under-19 World Cup side in 2004 and spent three years at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane.
Since then he has seen off Sean Clingeleffer to take the main state job and moved a step closer to national selection with a century during Australia A's series in Queensland during his winter. He did that while opening the batting and may be tested at the top of the order once he settles in the side. In 31 first-class games he has an average of 30.98, with a high of 215 against Western Australia in 2006-07, and has scored at a strike-rate of 66 runs per 100 balls in 42 one-day matches.
With the Tigers he hones his skills against the fast men Ben Hilfenhaus and Brett Geeves and has improved his keeping against the slow bowlers since Jason Krejza arrived from New South Wales. While modern-day glovemen must be wicketkeeper-batsmen, Paine's choice of idols when he was growing up shows how important he views his craft. His favourite was not Gilchrist, but Ian Healy, a fanatical technician with claims on having the country's cleanest pair of hands.
Paine was given a rookie contract with Tasmania when he was 16 and has been a professional cricketer ever since, although he is studying to be a personal trainer and wants it to be his post-playing career. "I prefer to do my fitness through wicketkeeping," he said. "I don't do a great deal of weights or running." The keeper's curse is bad knees, but so far Paine's are fine and he doesn't have to drown them in ice every day like Gilchrist used to.
Over the past week he has reacquainted himself with Tim Nielsen, the national coach, who he worked with for a season at the Centre of Excellence. On Friday, in one of the game's outposts, Paine will become a top-level graduate of the enviable production line.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo