After perfect home summer, Tim Paine sets sights on 'mouth-watering' contest against India

Test captain happy with Australia's consistency and ruthlessness, but wants to keep trying to improve

Tim Paine celebrates the series sweep with his team-mates, Australia v New Zealand, 3rd Test, 4th day, Sydney, January 6, 2020

Tim Paine celebrates the series sweep with his team-mates  •  Getty Images

Tim Paine admitted it was hard not to think about the mouth-watering prospect of the Test series against India later this year, after a dominant home season that saw them trample all over Pakistan and New Zealand with five vast victories.
The 279-run victory at the SCG, wrapped up deep into the fourth day to mean none of the five matches needed a fifth day, capped a perfect Test summer for the home side and meant a full house of World Test Championship points to put them second behind runaway leaders India, who will arrive in November for four Tests.
Before then, Australia's Test side have a tricky assignment in Bangladesh for two Tests in June and a one-off match against Afghanistan early next summer, but facing off against India over four matches - two seasons after India's famous win in Australia - is a massive target.
While playing down any element of revenge for what happened last season, when Virat Kohli led a 2-1 success, Paine is looking forward to facing India will a full complement of first-choice batsmen and with the benefit of the experience the side has had over the last 12 months.
"We are certainly a different side from what they played against last year and there's more at stake with Test Championship points," Paine said. "If we can continue our upward trend from the last 12 months, then you are looking at two of the best sides, so it will be an awesome series. They showed last year they have a pace battery that can be every bit as threatening as ours so it will be one to watch.
"If we go to Bangladesh and play well and get some wins over there, then you come back to Australia to play India, which is quite a mouth-watering series for players and the fans. It's hard not to be looking at that. We've got some people who're employed in Cricket Australia who are already looking ahead at that series.
We think we've got a lot of bases covered and a lot of flexibility. I think, at the moment, we're in a really good place. But we've got a lot of improvement in it
Tim Paine
"But for the main playing group, your goal is Bangladesh and you certainly can't take it lightly. We went there before and won a Test and lost a Test. And all the reports from the guys who went there is that it's a really, really challenging place to play particularly the time of the year we're going to be there."
Paine had started this summer "expecting" to win all five Tests but said that the margins of victory did not reflect how hard his team were pushed. One of the most pleasing aspects for him was learning from the previous series against India and especially the Ashes in England, where they could not always hold their nerve at vital moments.
"Think at times in England when the big moments came up we tried too hard and let the emotion of the game take over us executing our skills," he said. "It's about doing your role, and the teams that can do that win the big moments. There were periods of the Test series against India and England that we should have capitalised on, but through wanting it too much or putting too much pressure on ourselves we let opportunities slip.
"So confidence, learning and having some experienced Test players back as certainly helped."
While the India challenge looms large, there will be some interesting selection decisions to be made for the tour of Bangladesh including how many of the quick bowlers they take, the extra spin options and the potential need for an allrounder. Paine, who will move into some commentary of the Big Bash before resuming the back-end of the Sheffield Shield season with Tasmania in February, wants his team to keep striving for improvement.
"The moment we don't think we can improve, we are going to be in trouble," he said. "We certainly all as individual players can get better. If we can all do that, two, three, five per cent, then we've going to be a better cricket team again. We've got lots of upside as a team. In terms of what we can add to it, we've got a lot of options we've picked during the summer. We think we've got a lot of bases covered and a lot of flexibility. I think, at the moment, we're in a really good place. But we've got a lot of improvement in it.
"We're becoming a more consistent team. We've probably been a little more ruthless. It's a really good sign, after we let some opportunities slip in England. And we've got some real match-winners and great quality throughout our side. It's an exciting team to be a part of."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo