Tim Paine has been backed to retain the Australian captaincy by selectors. Picture: AAP
Tim Paine has been backed to retain the Australian captaincy by selectors. Picture: AAP

Healy: No contest, Paine’s the man for the job

IAN Healy says Australia owes Alex Carey nothing, as selectors prepare to lock in Tim Paine as Test captain for at least the next 18 months.

Coach Justin Langer declared on Wednesday he can't see any reason why 35-year-old Paine won't lead the side out at the inaugural World Test Championship Final at Lord's in 2021, presuming Australia stay on course to qualify.

"The way he leads the group, I just literally can't think of one reason at the moment why he wouldn't ... keep playing for as long as he wants to or needs to," Langer said.

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The emphatic show of faith in Paine puts to bed months of speculation about whether Steve Smith might return as skipper when his leadership ban ends in March, however, it raises fresh doubt over what the future holds for Carey who is an established ODI star and the Test keeper-in-waiting.

Adam Gilchrist was just about to turn 28 when he took over from Healy in 1999, but should Paine power on to mid-2021, Carey would be 30 by the time the position might finally become vacant.

Gilchrist is a huge rap on Carey's capabilities, as is the Australian hierarchy, but 119-Test great Healy says history is full of hard-luck stories such as Darren Berry, Chris Hartley and Wade Seccombe who were all highly-rated state 'keepers that never got a look-in at Test level.

Healy believes Carey will one day make it in Test cricket, but says there should be no pressure on Australia to enact any kind of succession planning, despite the South Australian's potential.

Captain Tim Paine and coach Justin Langer during Australian training at the SCG on Wednesday. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Captain Tim Paine and coach Justin Langer during Australian training at the SCG on Wednesday. Picture. Phil Hillyard

"Our game has been littered with blokes good enough that can't get a game in that spot. So it's the old, 'never give a sucker an even break'," Healy said.

"So no, there's never a need to get someone in that's pushing someone out.

"You have to lose your spot or give it up. Alex is doing absolutely everything perfectly in waiting and in the shadows. He can do no more other than keep his name being the one we're talking about.

"And he just waits for an injury or something that might accelerate Tim Paine's movement out of the team. But he's been pretty durable, (Paine). I think he's had a few broken digits while he's been going.

"I see no need to push Tim Paine out."

Since Paine took over the captaincy, Healy has expressed concern over the massive workload the Tasmanian was burdened with as both national leader and keeper, and felt the strain had started to impact on Paine's batting through the Ashes.

But the captain's momentum-changing Boxing Day knock and sharp diving catch to dismiss Kiwi Tom Latham at the MCG has convinced Healy that Paine's best cricket is still ahead of him.

Ian Healy says Alex Carey will have to continue to bide his time for an opportunity at Test level. Picture: Sarah Reed
Ian Healy says Alex Carey will have to continue to bide his time for an opportunity at Test level. Picture: Sarah Reed

Paine even credited Healy for his innings in Melbourne, after a frank conversation the pair shared during the Ashes where Healy told him to "bat like a keeper".

"The way he's coping and the way he's got this team rolling is excellent and makes it even easier for him," Healy said.

"He's getting better. I'm really happy with that and his wicketkeeping is very strong now and he's gloving the ball extremely cleanly. That catch of Tom Latham was a great indicator to me on his sideways movement and power. He made that look easy and yet it was going to the right foot of first slip. That was a great sign.

"He will play as long as he wants to as long as he keeps batting like that, because he's solid in every other facet of his play and he's an extremely dependable cricketer which is what you build your flair around.

"It was easy to work out why he got bogged down (with his batting). He had so much on his plate. He had an environment to change and to fire up again. He had his wicketkeeping to worry about, he had team performances, he had this team that wasn't particularly well liked around the world.

"He dug himself into a hole trying too hard with his batting (and my advice was), 'just get out there and bat like a keeper. Punch away and have fun.' It's good that he's doing it."