• Paine backs ‘evolving’ Labuschagne

    Whether or not Tim Paine is still Australia’s captain by the time the Ashes series starts later this year remains in the balance.

    Paine has been under pressure for an extended period, not really delivering with the willow as a number seven or eight batsman and proving unsound behind the stumps as a wicketkeeper.

    Australia could revert to Steven Smith as skipper – or make a fresh appointment in Marnus Labuschagne.

    “I think he’d be a good leader. Marnus is a great thinker of the game. He’s a good team man, he’s got so much enthusiasm for his team and the game,” said Paine.

    “In terms of our cricket team improving and Marnus evolving, I think in the next couple of years we’ll definitely see him take the step up.

    “He’s got some real natural leadership ability and if that’s harnessed and helped, I think he’ll be a great captain.”

    Paine effectively succeeded former captain Smith during the ball-tampering scandal that marred 2018’s Test series against South Africa. Current head coach Justin Langer took over from predecessor Darren Lehmann during that same difficult period for Australian cricket.

    “We are all 100 percent behind Justin and the job he is doing. We had a team review at the end of the Indian series, which is a pretty common factor in professional sports. From Justin to our last player, everyone will get feedback they can improve on,” added Paine, who conceded a two-one Test series defeat to India in Australia earlier this year.

    “We will go to the Gold Coast in a couple of weeks to delve a bit deeper into that. We are trying to create an environment to give people feedback. We obviously did not play as well as we would have liked against India and we all want to improve, from Justin down.”

    The Australians are the defending Ashes champions. They will be afforded the opportunity to successfully defend their title in December 2021 and January 2022. They are priced 8/15 by bet365 Australia to get this right. England are offered at 11/4 to win the Ashes. A series draw, which is priced at 11/2, would mean the Aussies retain the Ashes.

    Australia were due to tour South Africa earlier this year, but that was belatedly postponed. The Proteas went for an extended period without Test cricket, but are currently involved in a two-match series with the West Indies.

    The Proteas have an unassailable series lead in the Caribbean, after winning the first Test inside three days. Centurion Quinton de Kock was named player of the match, while there were star performances from fast bowlers Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada as well.

    Australia, meanwhile, will soon tour Bangladesh without a string of first-choice players, including batsman David Warner, fast bowler Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. Smith was not considered for selection due to injury.

    “We are naturally disappointed not to have all players available for the Australian team at this time, however the national selection panel respects the decisions of those who have opted out of this tour,” said national selector Trevor Hohns.

    “Steve was unavailable for selection due to an elbow injury and will now be able to use this time to fully recover ahead of the World Cup and home Ashes series. Steve was disappointed to miss the tour with the decision made on medical grounds.

    “This also presents opportunities for others and, in this case, the chance to push for selection in the Australian men’s T20 World Cup squad later this year and beyond. This is a great chance for these players to make a case for the World Cup and all are considered very real prospects of making that tournament by performing well across these tours.”

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    Juandre Joubert