As everyone knows by now, Australia’s recent limited overs tour of England was far from successful for a side looking to rebuild their identity while struggling with the loss of their two best batsman Steve Smith and David Warner to suspension and fearsome pace trio Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins to injury.
Needless to say, the new look Australia side was thumped 5-0 in the One Day International series and in the one off Twenty20 game and a lot of questions were being asked of their personnel. New captain Tim Paine had the unenviable job of navigating the inevitable questions about “team culture” but the 33-year-old handled the media scrutiny expertly.
However, Paine’s on-field performances did little to inspire confidence. The wicketkeeper-batsman scored a paltry 36 runs (just two more than tail-ender Andrew Tye) at a less-than-rapid strike-rate of 78.26 (slower than any other top-order Australian). Behind the stumps, Paine was tidy enough but as England have proved with Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow, wicketkeepers need to be able to score big runs in limited overs cricket more now than ever and Paine simply does not provide that.
In the last two games, Australia brought in the Adelaide Strikers wicketkeeper Alex Carey as a specialist batsman alongside Paine and while he didn’t hit the heights of Buttler or Bairstow, Carey scored more runs in those two games than Paine did in the full five.
Carey is as good a wicketkeeper as Paine, if not better, and proved in the most recent edition of the Big Bash that he is an incredibly dangerous batsman at the top of the order. Carey scored 443 runs at an average of 49.22 and a strike-rate of 141.53 as an opener his Adelaide Strikers won the tournament.
The 26-year-old South Australian is clearly a much better option than Paine in the limited overs side. Paine already does not play T20 cricket for Australia, with Carey taking the gloves in that format and his recent performances have hardly shown that he deserves to continue. Carey is the more explosive batsman, versatile in the batting order and a very good gloveman himself.
Perhaps the only thing saving Paine’s place is the captaincy. As captain of the Test side after the sandpapergate debacle, he has a great responsibility on his shoulders alongside new coach Justin Langer to change the culture and image of this Australian side who quickly developed a reputation as an unnecessarily nasty team on the field.
However, Paine is not the captain in T20 cricket with the role being taken up by the experienced Aaron Finch. Finch is a performer that Australia can and have counted on for a number of years in white-ball cricket and was not a part of the Test team’s nasty culture. Why is he not the One Day captain as well?
All in all, while Paine has certainly had a lot to deal with off the field (and done so remarkably well) his performances on it have hardly warranted his spot in the side. In Alex Carey Australia have a ready-made replacement who is much better than Paine in this form of the game and in Aaron Finch they have a ready-made replacement as captain. All that is left is for Cricket Australia to pull the trigger, appoint Finch as captain and drop Paine for Carey. It will not solve all of their ODI problems but it will certainly strengthen their side considerably.