Tim Thomas Paine - Australia'Man On The Moon > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Tim Paine - Australia's man on the moon

Tim Paine has been called an 'all-round good egg' and 'the toughest pretty boy', but neither has had an affect on the way he has led Australia since the Cape Town Test last year

Twice in two days now, Tim Paine has spoken about playing cricket on the moon.

Not literally, but he's hinted at how his Australian team would be comfortable playing "good cricket" regardless of where they were playing on earth - even beyond. When he walks out for the toss at Edgbaston on Thursday (August 1), he might as well be on the moon: he is likely to feel as alien as he ever will on a cricket field.

It'll have little to do with where Paine will be, Edgbaston - which he's already dismissed as not even being in his 15 most intimidating cricket grounds in the world. It's more to do with what he'll achieve by becoming the unlikeliest Australian captain to lead his team to an Ashes series in over 40 years. And it will perhaps feel even more overwhelming than when he was suddenly saddled with the Test captaincy last year at a time Australian cricket had slinked towards the dark side of the moon - where like the final lyric of the historic Pink Floyd album reveals, there was no dark side really, it was all just dark.

For four decades, and for most parts of Ashes history, Australia have either had their best player or a larger-than-life character at the helm. The only man to break that mould was Graham Yallop, who much like Paine last year but in different circumstances, was thrust with the top job despite being neither, but simply because of a sudden vacuum in leadership options Down Under. In an interview to this correspondent a few years ago, Yallop recalled the moment he was named Australian Test captain, much to everyone's surprise, including his own, during a time the best players in the country were away playing in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket.

"We had just landed in Brisbane after a brief camp that was arranged to help us get to know each other better. And a board official jumped in while we were still seated and said, 'Graham you will be captain for the first Test', and I was like 'What?' and said Ok," he'd said. Yallop had played in 8 Tests in his career. Cape Town was Paine's 12th, when he actually took over before officially becoming the 46th Australian to captain his team in Johannesburg a few days later.

Yallop went on to captain in 7 Tests, which included a 5-1 hammering at home to a full-strength English team. Paine has now been in-charge for 9, and last summer became the first Australian captain to lose a Test series at home to India. That's where the similarities between the two end though. Yallop kept his place in the side once the bigwigs returned, but was immediately stripped of the captaincy, which made its way to Kim Hughes.

Over the next six weeks, Paine will have the task of making his presence felt as skipper despite Steve Smith and David Warner having returned, and likely standing next to him behind the stumps in the slip cordon. Ironically, the last time the two teams played an Ashes series, Paine was making an unexpected comeback to Test cricket after 7 years in the wilderness under captain Smith. On Thursday in Birmingham, Smith will be making a comeback to Test cricket after a year away dealing with the wilderness under captain Paine.

It's not just the makeshift nature of his appointment or the dire circumstances that led to it last year that make Paine stand out. He's already been billed with monikers not so common with previous Aussie captains who have come to England seeking the urn. They range from being an "all-round good egg" - according to a quote from his former English club captain in The Telegraph - or as coach Justin Langer referred to him during the India series - "the toughest pretty boy" he'd ever seen. Not for Paine are those stereotypical yet apt adjectives for Australian captains - grumpy, abrasive, in-your-face, combative and nasty of a "get ready for a broken arm" kind.

But the English will take Paine lightly at their peril. For, Paine isn't uncomfortable in his job. For a man who's spoken about being on the moon for two straight days and talked up an alleged Winston Churchill quote which most of England refuse their late Prime Minister ever used, Paine is someone who keeps it real.

Over the last 18 months, he's proved over and over again that he is a man on a mission but one who realizes how fortunate he is to be on it. And at no point has the "nicest Aussie to lead his team into the Ashes" ever backed down from speaking his mind.

During the home series against Sri Lanka, when asked about when he would start thinking about the Ashes, he revealed it was "six months ago". To repeated questions over his batting form and the fact that even his present coach has scored a first-class century more recently than he has, he has never shied away from insisting that that wasn't his role in the team, and that wasn't the reason he was here. Like he did again on Wednesday (July 31).

"I'm 34 years old, mate. I don't really care about my place in the side anymore. I'm here to do a job. I've been put in this team to captain and wicket-keep to the best of my ability. That's all I can do. At 34 years of age if you're looking further ahead than the next Test match you're kidding yourself. I realise how lucky I am - the position I've come from and the position I'm now in. I'm enjoying the job I'm doing, loving being in England, being part of an Ashes series and I'm just looking to enjoy it as much as I can," he said. It summed up the man. It summed up why he was chosen to take the reins at a time there seemed to be none at hand in Australian cricket.

Unlike Paine, Yallop did go on to score a lot of runs - including two centuries in that ill-fated Ashes series in 1978. But unlike with Yallop, who was never accepted as captain even by some of his junior teammates in that rag-tag squad, it's unlikely that there's a single Australian cricketer who's played under Paine and not thought of him as being worthy to be his captain - like Smith and Warner will too starting Thursday.

It's an ode to how he's managed to establish his authority despite never trying too hard to do so. And even if he does feel like a man on the moon in Edgbaston with not much up his sleeve, he still has plenty of room to breathe.

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