Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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Australia's Test captain Tim Paine has given an indicator he may be looking at a longer term in charge of the national team, as his sole deputy Pat Cummins backed away from any suggestions he was ramping up his apprenticeship for a possible succession plan.
On the day that South Australia's developing Covid-19 outbreak underlined how even the best-laid plans are particularly tenuous in 2020, Paine indicated he had no intention of returning to the broadcast commentary box in the short to medium term. He has rejoined the Big Bash League's playing ranks with the Hobart Hurricanes and stated that he missed the atmosphere of the dressing room when sequestered as part of Seven's broadcast team after concluding his Test duties last summer.
While a place on the Hurricanes' list does not equate to a continuing Test match tenure, 35-year-old Paine's revelation that his first taste of life beyond the game only made him more eager to spend more time playing is a strong pointer to the fact that he wishes to hang onto his place as the nation's No. 1 wicketkeeper and red ball captain beyond the climax of the World Test Championship next year and even the home Ashes series in 2021-22.
"I missed white-ball cricket, I enjoyed my commentary but I missed being around the team and around my mates," Paine said. "For me I can go to commentary in three or four years' time if need be, but for me at the moment I just want to play as much cricket as I can while I still can and thankfully, I'm fit enough to be still going. I can't wait to be back in the purple and back around white-ball cricket.
"It was probably at the end of last year I had a chat to my manager when the Hurricanes were playing finals and I was there commentating and while I enjoyed the stint and it's something I'll probably look to do when I finish, but I miss the competitiveness, I miss being around the team and didn't enjoy being on the outside of it. I wanted to get back inside the tent.
"I think I'll be available for the back three or four and then the finals, but looking at the line-up it's going to be difficult for me to get a game with the quality we've got on our list."
Cummins, who has been confirmed as the lone vice-captain of both the Test and limited-overs teams and thus lieutenant to Paine and Aaron Finch, said on Monday he was not looking at the role as anything more than a supporting post to the team leaders.
"Not really to be honest, maybe once I get into Test camp I'll get my head around it a bit more, but I still see my job as helping Painey out in that Test side as much as I can. Beyond that, not really," he said. "Since being vice-captain, of course you think about the game a bit more when you're out there, when you're off the field as well, trying to be a bit more aware of what's going on, sometimes as a bowler it's easy to go down to fine leg and drift, so just trying to make sure I'm always trying to learn what it takes to be captain in case it ever comes up.
"Just about everyone you come across, whether it's ex-players or some of the really good players you're lucky enough to play with in IPL have been part of really good sides and have had some leadership roles, so I think everyone has their own style and way they go about it, so it's great to hear what's worked for them and it's all different cultures, different levels of cricket, but I think most of the problems and the opportunities are all the same. Just maybe in a slightly different setting.
"I haven't had too much experience so I could say it's easy or it's really hard, but until you actually have a crack at it you might not know. speaking to a few captains around the place or guys who have captained, they've found sometimes the longer the format the easier it has been to make those tactical decisions, you don't feel as rushed, the game doesn't move as quickly.
"Of course something like the Aussie team we've probably got six, seven or eight guys who are really good leaders, have captained either Australia or their state, so there's no shortage of ideas and guys to bounce off."
The former captain Mark Taylor has stated that a longer tenure for Paine may well serve as a catalyst for Cricket Australia to look beyond Steven Smith and to a younger generation, headed by the likes of Cummins, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne, for future leadership posts.
"If Paine goes a couple more years, that will probably go against Smith," Taylor told Nine this week. "They'd probably want to go to someone younger, like a Travis Head. But if things don't go well for Tim, or he decides in the next 12 months or so that he's had enough, I'd like to think they would certainly consider Smith again."
Either way, Paine also backed up the national team coach Justin Langer's strong assertion that it will most likely be Joe Burns walking out to open the batting alongside David Warner in the Tests against India, irrespective of the Queenslander's modest returns during the recently completed bracket of Sheffield Shield games.
"I think Burnsy had a really good summer for us last year with David Warner, their partnership and relationship is a really important one for our team, and they got us off to a number of good starts last year," Paine said. "Burnsy hasn't been in the form he'd like or scored the runs he'd like, but we know he does a good job, he averages close to 40 in Test cricket for Australia, which is great opening the batting and we expect him to start the summer."