Tasmanian cricket officials declared Tim Paine was “ready to play” and swatted away questions about his sexting scandal as the now former Test captain made his playing return on Monday.
Paine, who quit as Australian captain last Friday after it was revealed he sent sexualised messages and an image to a female Cricket Tasmania colleague in 2017m, stepped out for Tasmania’s second XI in Hobart.
It was the 36-year-old’s first competitive match since April 6 following serious neck surgery in September and his first steps on what some think could yet be a path to the first Ashes Test on December 8.
He put on his wicketkeeping gloves at Lindisfarne Oval in the game against South Australia having missed the chance to play club cricket on Saturday because of rain.
Cricket Tasmania high performance manager Simon Insley, who didn’t answer questions about the scandal, said Paine was “ready to play cricket” and wanted to press his Ashes claims despite concern over whether his place in the national team would be a distraction.
“Whenever you go through challenging times you want to be around your mates and do what you do best,” Insley said at Lindisfarne Oval.
“He’s an exceptional cricketer and he wants to play cricket and get ready for the Ashes.
“He wants to show signs of good form and show that he’s ready for selection.
“We all know Tim Paine, he is a very determined individual.
“Everyone is hurting after the scenarios of the last few days and he’s ready to get around his friends and play cricket.”
Insley said Paine’s Tasmanian teammates were keen to play with Paine “regardless of what’s happened in the past few days”.
“This has been a very calculated return to cricket. If there were any concerns about his fitness he wouldn’t be playing a second XI game,” Insley said.
Paine still has support to retain his place in the Test team to take on England despite the scandal and the lack of recent performances by the veteran, who will turn 37 on the opening day of the first Test.
Australian Cricketers Association boss Todd Greenberg said on Monday that Paine must be available for selection.
The four-day second XI fixture and a three-day intra-squad match in Brisbane early next month will be Paine’s only matches before the first Ashes Test.
He was the only wicketkeeper picked in Australia‘s 15-man squad before the scandal emerged.
However, Alex Carey and Josh Inglis are both in the Australia A squad also travelling to Brisbane.
Former selector Mark Waugh and Test great Shane Warne have urged selectors to move on from Paine, with Warne declaring he would pick West Australian Inglis.