Tim Paine is as fit as ever and in a good place mentally, according to the coach of the Hobart grade cricket side for whom the former Australian Test captain will make his playing return.
Some 18 months after his last first-class appearance, Paine will take the field for University of Tasmania against New Town at Kingston on Sunday in a premier league 50-over game.
The 37-year-old wicketkeeper walked away from the sport in the lead-up to the 2021 Ashes series against England when a sexting scandal dating back to late 2017 became public.
“He’s looking forward to playing and we’re thrilled to have him back,” Damien Wright, coach of University, Paine’s junior club, told AAP. “He’s as fit as he’s ever been. Mentally, he’s in a really good place as well. From all reports he’s been training the house down.
“I see him quite regularly. He knows there’s a bit of hype around it. It’s a great story – he’s still got plenty of cricket left in him, we believe.”
Paine has been training with the Tasmanian Tigers squad in recent months as an uncontracted player, with coach Jeff Vaughan indicating he was in the mix for selection in the Sheffield Shield.
The Tigers open their Shield season against Queensland on October 6.
Wright, who played 123 first-class games in a career that included Shield success with Tasmania, believes Paine will end up making a return for the Tigers.
“If he’s available and ready to play, you’d have him in the team. It’s only going to give the team … the experience and the passion he’s had about Tasmanian cricket,” Wright said. “I do believe it will happen.”
Fellow Tasmanian and former Test captain Ricky Ponting, head of strategy for Hobart Hurricanes, has openly stated his desire for Paine to again turn out for the BBL franchise.
The Hurricanes have one empty spot on their roster. Paine quit the Test captaincy after admitting involvement in a lewd text exchange with a female employee of Cricket Tasmania.
Cricket Australia investigated at the time and cleared him of wrongdoing.