Paine-ful Ashes selection leaves us all stumped
TIM Paine's elevation to Test wicketkeeper in place of his old backyard rival Matthew Wade shows how totally confused Australia is over this crucial position.
Never has Australia had less faith in its Test custodians since the heartbreak years of the mid-1980s when five keepers were tried in four years after Rod Marsh left and before Ian Healy arrived.
Paine and Wade were raised a few streets apart in the Hobart suburb of Lauderdale and used to play backyard cricket against each other as boys. The loser would be sent to get fish and chips.
They were different cuts of sportsman with Paine the glamour boy and Wade the scrapper who looked up to his older rival and even left the state because he was trapped in his path.
It's an enchanting story but the final twist in their tale was one neither could have imagined and is a genuine jaw-dropper.
Paine may well prove a solid selection but his sudden elevation makes Australian cricket seem as if it is not simply snatching for answers but uncertain of what it actually snatching for.
Australia loved Paine's attitude on the recent Twenty20 tour of India and in the just completed trial match against England in Adelaide.
But if it really felt he was a genuine Test contender surely he had to be asked to keep in one of Tasmania's Sheffield Shield matches this summer.
Fast bowlers, spinners and, just occasionally, batsmen, can come from nowhere.
But keepers normally emerge through a rigid pecking order and when they lose their place in that order, as Paine did, they rarely get it back, even if his major initial setback was a finger injury rather than a form lapse.
As a keeper Paine has a smoothness which is easy on the eye. The sight of him occasionally being bold enough to keep over the stumps to pace bowlers like Ben Hilfenhaus a few years back confirmed how slick he was.
But when someone is not first choice gloveman for his state and he is chosen to play a Test you just wonder who has got it wrong - his state or his country?
If he is that good how come a 19-year-old Jake Doran took the gloves ahead of him for Tasmania last season?
And he certainly was not chosen for his batting given his sole first class century was a decade ago.
When he did play his four Tests for Australia Paine impressed coaches and selectors as a cool head.
Australia wants a man who is bright and "up'' when the sun is not shining on he or his team and Paine's supporters say he can be that man.
Today we will hear voices around the country say how charismatic, soft-handed and exceptional he is and how he is a great choice for the role.
That's all good and well but it does leave one question hanging.
Any chance he can get a game behind the stumps for his state?
AUSTRALIAN LIKELY XI FOR FIRST ASHES TEST: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (capt), Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird (12th)