T minus 12 hours and counting

At 10:30 tomorrow, Tim Paine will become the youngest Australian Test wicket keeper since Ian Healy.

Handed a Cricket Australia contract back in April in recognition of his performance in last year’s ODI series against England, the 25-year old will be looking to cement his place as heir apparent to an injured Brad Haddin, who has been forced to sit out this two Test series against Pakistan with an elbow injury.

Paine’s form in this year’s ODIs hasn’t been on the same stellar level as that 111 he made at Trent Bridge, and he seemed to struggle as opening partner to Shane Watson, though he made 44 at Old Trafford and 54 at Lord’s. His batting seemed to me to be a mixture of the laboured and reckless, as if he wasn’t sure how to approach or pace his innings, causing him to over-complicate the job in hand before letting impatience get the better of him. It was as if he was thinking too much about the future – the weight of expectation after last year’s performances, the Cricket Australia contract and his ambitions to become Australia’s Test keeper when Haddin hangs up his gloves – rather than concentrating on the now.

I know this is a horrendously over-used cliché, but he needs to relax and keep it simple. Batting further down the order – he usually occupies the number 6 spot for Tasmania in Shield cricket – and without pressure to score runs quickly will help him. His keeping is a work in progress: the tour match in Derby was his first time keeping to the red Duke ball and he dropped Chris Rogers who went on to make 93, but that will improve through time and practice (cf. Brad Haddin, Matt Prior, Alec Stewart and others not seen as “natural keepers”).

I’m a fan of Paine – I watched him in the nets at Old Trafford last year for the rain-aborted Twenty20 International against England and admired his enthusiasm and aggression at Trent Bridge, and I’m hoping he’ll do well in this series.

Tim Paine in the nets

Tim Paine in the nets at Old Trafford 2009

Also, his 82-year-old grandmother will be watching in the stands, and that will be a pretty big incentive, too.

Good luck, Tim.

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