Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley would love to see Tim Paine return to the Test side, having defended his organisation's handling of the former skipper's demotion.
Paine tearfully resigned as captain, three weeks out from the men's Ashes. He initially planned to play this week's series opener in Brisbane then opted to take a mental-health break, prompting speculation he will never play for Australia again.
The catalyst for Paine's sudden exit was a texting message scandal, which occurred in 2017 and involved a Cricket Tasmania staffer. CA was made aware of the incident in 2018 but backed Paine to continue playing and captaining Australia at that juncture, desperate to restore the team's image after the Cape Town cheating crisis.
Coach Justin Langer has offered public and private support to Paine, flying to Hobart after being released from quarantine and keeping the door open for his "really close" friend to don the baggy green again.
Hockley is likewise upbeat Paine, who was expected to retire at the end of this summer before news broke of his indiscretion, will return to the Test XI.
"Would love to see him play again, for both his state and for Australia," Hockley told SEN. "We want to see him back out there, playing and performing, as quickly as possible."
The Sheffield Shield hiatus means Paine would be recalled on limited evidence, unless selectors want him to be part of a planned tour of Pakistan in March. The fifth Test is expected to be staged at Paine's home ground, although Hockley shed little light on whether Hobart will win that bidding war.
CA has copped plenty of criticism in recent weeks regarding its approach to Paine, with the most notable coming from Cricket Tasmania chair Andrew Gaggin
"At a time when CA should have supported Tim, he was evidently regarded as dispensable. The treatment afforded to the Australian Test captain by Cricket Australia has been appalling, and the worst since Bill Lawry over 50 years ago," Gaggin said. Lawry was sacked in the 1970-71 Ashes and learned of his dismissal via the media.
Hockley, installed as chief executive on a caretaker basis in 2020 and given the job permanently almost a year later, said CA is trying to support Paine.
"The head coach has been down to see him, we've had members of our high performance set up go down to Tassie. The Tasmanian cricket community have put their arms around him," Hockley said. "We are all very, very concerned - to make sure that Tim is well supported. A lot of respect for Tim for owning his mistake and our job now is to really support him."
Hockley repeatedly noted Paine made his own call to step down as captain, but "that was a decision that the board felt was appropriate".