FORMER Australia captain believes Josh Inglis is the long-term solution to replace Tim Paine behind the stumps in the Test side.
Tim Paine will inevitably be the Ashes distraction he did not want to become, says Ricky Ponting, who believes Josh Inglis should be the long-term successor as Test wicketkeeper.
Paine’s surprise resignation as captain last Friday in the wake of a sex scandal came with an insistence he was stepping down to ensure he would not be an “unwelcome disruption” for the team in their marquee five-Test campaign against England.
The wicketkeeper has since seen his returns (following neck surgery in September) to club and second XI cricket become subject to intense attention from the cricketing public and media
And Ponting, a long-time Paine confidant who played a role in saving his career back in early 2017 when the wicketkeeper was on the verge of losing his Tasmania contract, suggested the controversy won’t disappear when he joins Australia’s Test squad in Brisbane ahead of the Ashes.
“I think inevitably it will (be a distraction),” Ponting told cricket.com.au. “Yes, he’s made a huge call for himself, for Australian cricket and for the betterment of the Australian cricket team. But it’s not going to go away.
“We’re only a few weeks out from the first Test – it will bubble along.
“As much as we would all love to see it go away and there comes a point where it’s never talked about, it’s inevitable that it’s going to be there.
“If he plays in Brisbane (for the first Test), the rest of the group and everyone need to move on and do the best they can to forget about it and knuckle down.
“Unfortunately for Tim he’s going to get asked about it everywhere he goes.
“Whenever you make mistakes and you’ve got to front up in front of the cricket-loving public, you have some doubts in the back of your mind for a period of time.”
Paine underwent invasive surgery to fix a neck problem and is this week featuring in his first competitive match since April: a second XI fixture for Tasmania on a club ground in suburban Hobart, after his Premier Cricket return was washed out on Saturday.
The 36-year-old showed that his skills have not diminished in the face of his off-field dramas, taking six catches in the first innings of the game.
Having not been picked in Tasmania’s Sheffield Shield team for their ongoing match against Western Australia, the ensuing intra-squad clash between Australia’s Test players and Australia A squad members marks Paine’s final chance to show he is fit.
Ponting said his come-back matches are also where he will find the most solace during the ongoing storm.
“When you’re out in the middle, that’s the only place you can get away from it,” said the 46-year-old former Test captain. “The first thing he did Saturday morning was put his club gear on, head out and try to play club cricket in Hobart, which is where he will find the most serenity.
“When he’s out in the middle he’s got something else to focus on and think about, which is cricket.
“It will blow over and hopefully it passes in enough time to have some really good clear headspace going into Brisbane.”
Ponting nonetheless conceded Paine’s lack of match practice will be a major concern for the Aussies but suggested the gloveman’s work ethic and meticulous preparation would give him the best chance of being fit for the Gabba on December 8.
Wicketkeepers Alex Carey and Inglis were both named in the Australia A squad, while Ponting also said Queensland’s Jimmy Peirson and Western Australia’s Josh Philippe could also be options to eventually replace Paine.
If Paine is not deemed fit to start the series, Ponting believes selectors may opt to replace him with Carey, the experienced 30-year-old gloveman who has played 83 times for Australia’s limited-overs sides and captained the ODI team earlier this year.
Inglis, on the other hand, is yet to make his international debut, yet the Yorkshire-born right-hander has a growing reputation of admirers including ex-Test keeper Brad Haddin and even Paine himself, according to Ponting.
Best known for his strong T20 form with the Perth Scorchers that helped propel him into Australia’s T20 World Cup-winning squad, Inglis also struck three Sheffield Shield centuries last season and his glovework has earned rave reviews.
“If he (Paine) plays this series and he finishes at the end of the series, they might look at a younger guy. If he’s not picked for Brisbane they might think about someone who’s a bit more experienced, being an Ashes series,” said Ponting.
“If Paine doesn’t play in Brisbane the obvious one is Alex Carey. If Paine does play the Ashes series, they might look at someone like Inglis post this summer.
“I’m on record saying I love Inglis – I think he’s going to be a really good cricketer for Australia for a long time in whatever format they pick him in first, whether its T20s, one-dayers or Test cricket.
“Speaking to Brad Haddin and even ‘Painey’ – they really rate his keeping, they talk really highly of it.
“He could definitely be a long-term, not just an international player, (but also) a Test player.”