Tim Paine, Australia’s Test skipper, has been backed by coach Justin Langer who feels the wicketkeeper-batsman can continue in the leadership role, at least until the World Test Championship final at Lord’s in 2021, with India and Australia currently looking favourites to make it to the summit clash.
Some of the former players, including Shane Warne, have backed Alex Carey’s entry to the Australian Test setup while Steven Smith’s captaincy ban, which came into effect following the Newlands ball-tampering episode, is set to end in March. But Langer feels Paine is the right person for the job, be it ‘keeping wickets or leading the team, calling him “almost our most important player”.
“Truthfully, I can’t see one reason why he wouldn’t. His last game – you judge on his last performance – he was probably pushing to be Man of the Match. He had eight dismissals, 70-odd with the bat, and the way he played his innings was what was most exciting. The way he leads the group. I just literally can’t think of one reason at the moment, he’s so fit, as to why he wouldn’t keep playing for as long as he wants to or needs to,” said Langer.
“The truth is there’s been conjecture from outside, there’s never been one millisecond of conjecture from within our team,” Langer added. “I said at the start of the summer, he’s almost our most important player, because he’s a very good leader, his captaincy is excellent, he’s the best wicketkeeper in the world, he’s as fit as anyone in the group and we knew that if he believed he could bat as well as we think he can then you’ll see results like we did in the last Test and at times during the Ashes.
“There’s always a bit of conjecture, but certainly not within our camp. I hope he plays for as long as he possibly can because his leadership has been brilliant, working with the leadership group, I love working with him.”
Meanwhile, Langer did not rule out the possibility of Mitchell Swepson featuring in the New Year’s Test against New Zealand at the SCG but the coach backed Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head to pitch in with some overs, hinting at the likelihood of Australia going in unchanged for the third and final Test.
“It’s certainly an option,” Langer said about Swepson. “That’s how we have to look at it – we’re talking about finding another allrounder in Australian cricket – well it might give us an opportunity to bowl Marnus and Travis Head a few overs, to find those extra overs we’re looking for.
“Every time Marnus gets the ball in his hand, it’s pretty exciting. He’s working hard on getting his lines right, so he makes them play a bit more, but he’s an exciting prospect, the way he spins the ball, and the more he can bowl in games that’s important. It will be hard to make changes, that said I think it’s really important that we wait because we’ve seen it in the Shield games and the groundsman is telling us he’s expecting it to spin, so we have to respect that. We’ll wait and see over the next two days what the wicket looks like.”