Ashes 2021-22: Australia's Tim Paine in a battle to hold Test spot

Tim Paine stood down as Test captain following an off-field scandal
Tim Paine stood down as Test captain following an off-field scandal

Now that the media frenzy has died down over Tim Paine's resignation as Australia Test captain, questions have been asked over how tenable his spot in the side is.

Paine is still widely regarded as Australia's best gloveman for Test cricket and has declared that he will still be available for selection. That has put the decision squarely on the shoulders of the selection committee.

With no (capt) next to his name on the team sheet, Paine will have to continually earn his position purely through his wicketkeeping and batting.

Paine brings a stack of long-form experience to the side, having played 147 first-class matches (including 35 Tests). Cricket Australia have also revealed a tendency to back him by giving more weight to his wicketkeeping than his batting at No 7. Paine's glovework is elite, but it showed signs of waning in the last four-match series against India.

"It seems screamingly unfair if he's not in that Test team." Peter Lalor says Tim Paine should play in the first Ashes Test despite relinquishing the captaincy.#Offsiders #cricket @plalor

Paine has 150 catches and seven stumpings to his name in Tests, as well as being placed fifth for most dismissals in a Test series (25 catches and one stumping in the 2017/18 Ashes series).

On the batting front, Paine averages 32.63 with nine fifties, but a Test century remains elusive. Against India in December and January, he scored a crucial 73* in Adelaide and 50 in Brisbane.

Compare that to BJ Watling's Test average of 37.52 or Jonny Bairstow's 33.70 and it's probably a passmark. The numbers, however, suggest that Paine is still playing a role with the bat despite having room to improve.

But in the wake of his resignation as skipper and approaching his 37th birthday, it appears as though it is time to hand over the reins in the near future - whether that be before or after the upcoming Ashes.

The top contenders to replace Paine

Alex Carey

Alex Carey is a seasoned international cricketer, having been a mainstay of Australia's team in ODI cricket. He was pertinent to Australia's 2019 World Cup effort, where he took 18 catches and two stumpings and was elevated up the order to bat at No 5. He is a reliable figure behind the stumps and presents himself as the most logical replacement.

Carey is an explosive batter with five first-class centuries at an average of 35.66. The 30-year-old also has a sound batting record in ODIs, averaging 36.45 from 45 matches - with five fifties and a ton.

.@tdpaine36's potential replacement as Australian wicket keeper admits he's been checking his phone for calls from selectors. #7NEWS

Former Australia fast bowler Brendon Julian noted - speaking to Fox Cricket - that Adam Gilchrist was predominantly an ODI player before excelling in Test cricket.

“We know Adam Gilchrist came through one-day cricket and survived, and did really, really well moving into Test match cricket and I think Alex Carey can do that,” he said.

Josh Inglis

Inglis has next to no recent red-ball form to lean on, having played just one Sheffield Shield game this season where he notched up 41 runs. However, it was due to being part of Australia's T20 World Cup squad in the UAE that he is in contention.

The 26-year-old wicketkeeper from Western Australia has been toiling at his craft for several seasons and has received a call-out from Shane Warne to be injected into the Test side. His glovework is unquestioned, but he is perhaps a more unknown quantity for selectors in comparison to Carey.

Josh Inglis received a glowing endorsement from Shane Warne in the Herald Sun!

Inglis' credentials to be included in the side are focused around his 2020-21 Sheffield Shield season. Last season, he scored 585 runs at an average of 73.12 in the lower-order, which has duly seized the attention of the Australian selectors.

Matthew Wade

Remarkably, Wade's name still enters the frame for playing this year's Ashes. He has already played 36 Tests for Australia. Picking Carey or Inglis to debut in the Ashes cauldron would be a big risk, whereas Wade's stature is well known.

Matthew Wade with the T20 World Cup
Matthew Wade with the T20 World Cup

In the end, Wade is an incumbent member of the team, having played in the last Test for Australia - and batting at No 7 may ease the pressure he experienced at No 5. After his heroics in the T20 World Cup, it may be a morale-boosting injection into the side.

However, Wade, 33, was not named in the Ashes squad for the first two Tests. From 36 Tests, he averages 29.87 - lower than Paine.

Edited by Sanjay Rajan

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