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Tim Paine takes leave of absence from cricket, Pat Cummins to be named Australian captain

Tim Paine will take an indefinite leave of absence from all cricket “for the foreseeable future”, throwing into serious doubt the former Australian Test captain’s availability for the Ashes and his future in the international game.

It precedes news Pat Cummins will – as widely expected – be named by Cricket Australia as his successor on Friday and Steve Smith his deputy. The board reportedly met and made the decision on Thursday night before notifying both candidates.

The appointment of Cummins will mark a departure from tradition in that he will become the first fast bowler to lead the country since Ray Lindwall in a one-off Test in 1956. Smith will return to a leadership role for the first time since he was stripped of the captaincy following the ball-tampering scandal of 2018.

But both step up amid a backdrop of distress for Paine, whose manager on Friday announced the 36-year-0ld would take a “mental health break” in the wake of the text message scandal which prompted the veteran wicketkeeper-batsman to stand down as captain.

The news, which comes less than two weeks before the start of Australia’s series defence against England, could mean Paine has worn the baggy green for the last time.

“Confirming that @tdpaine36 is stepping away from cricket for an indefinite mental health break,” James Henderson posted on Twitter. “We are extremely concerned for his and Bonnie’s wellbeing and will be making no further comment at this time.”

Paine last week clarified he remained available for Ashes selection, indicating his desire to end his Test career on the “ultimate high” of an Australian series defence at home, which begins in Brisbane on 8 December.

He had been called up and set to bat at first drop in Tasmania’s one-day match against Western Australia on Friday, giving him a chance to play five consecutive days of cricket after a low-key return via the state’s second XI. following neck surgery in September. But Cricket Tasmania on Friday confirmed the 36-year-old will step away from the game.

“Following discussions over the last 24 hours, Tim Paine has advised Cricket Tasmania that he will be taking a leave of absence from all forms of cricket for the foreseeable future,” Cricket Tasmania said in a statement.

“Tim’s decision makes him unavailable for selection for today’s Marsh One-Day Cup match against Western Australia. His place in the squad will be taken by Charlie Wakim. Cricket Tasmania will continue to support Tim and his family both professionally and personally over the summer.”

CA said it as committed to supporting Paine and his family during “an incredibly difficult time”.

“We respect and understand Tim’s decision to have a break at this time to focus on his and his family’s well-being,” CA chief executive Nick Hockley said in a statement. “The National Selection Panel will meet in the coming days to discuss the final squad ahead of the first Ashes Test on December 8.”

Speculation over Paine’s place in the Australia Test team has been rife since his resignation after revelations that he had been investigated for sending sexually explicit text messages to a female former Cricket Tasmania staffer four years ago. While he was cleared by the 2018 investigation, he said last Friday he did not want the controversy to be a distraction during the Ashes. The news of his omission from the Test team altogether means Alex Carey and Josh Inglis will likely vie for his spot behind the stumps.

The former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said this week Paine’s selection would still be distracting for the team. But teammates had hoped he would remain in the side, with Nathan Lyon calling him the “best keeper in the world”.

“This is very selfish – from a bowler’s point of view I want the best gloveman behind the stumps,” the off-spinner said on Thursday. “Every bowler’s relationship with the keeper is exceptional. Tim Paine is a very lovable guy and very well respected.

“I’m pretty sure I’m speaking on behalf of every bowler that we want the best keeper. He’s got my full support and I 100% guarantee he’s got the full support of the Australian change room.”


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