n wicketkeeper Tim Paine did not travel with the Test squad to Melbourne on Friday after the sudden illness of a family member.
Paine’s father-in-law has suffered a stroke. It’s unclear when the Tasmanian will link up with the n team, which begins preparations on Saturday for the Boxing Day Test against England. No replacement has been named.
“Tim Paine has not travelled with the squad to Melbourne due to personal reasons. An update on his travel plans will be provided in due course,” a statement from the team said on Friday.
Selectors have several options if Paine was to miss the Test. They could fly in specialists Matthew Wade, Alex Carey or Peter Nevill from outside the squad or hand the gloves to Cameron Bancroft or Peter Handscomb, who have both kept wicket for in the limited-overs arena.
The development came as Paine was given a ringing endorsement by one of the country’s greatest glovemen Ian Healy, who says the Tasmanian can wear the baggy green for up to another five years.
On the verge of retiring at the end of last season, Paine has been one of the finds of the summer after leapfrogging his rivals to take the job behind the stumps for .
The 33-year-old has recovered from a shaky start on the first day of the series to earn rave reviews for his glove work, and provide invaluable runs down the order.
His counter-punching half-century in Adelaide turned the tide while his unbeaten 49 last week enabled to get a big enough lead without having to bat twice.
Paine’s shock promotion has proven a masterstroke by national selectors, who have struggled to find a long-term option with the gloves since Brad Haddin left the scene in 2015.
Healy believes Paine, who spent seven years out of the side, can be the man to end the merry-go-round in the job.
“He can do it more than two or three years because he’s such a late starter and he’s a fit-looking thing,” Healy said.
“He’s got it until his form’s no good, I’m sure. He might relinquish the Twenty20 job down the track [so] they blood someone up the ranks that way.
“I’m thinking he’s got it four to five years. As long as his enthusiasm’s there. He hasn’t had it since he was 25 so he might make every post a winner.”
Healy is a firm believer in stability in the keeping post. He missed only one match in a 119-Test career from 1988-99 while his successor Adam Gilchrist played all his 96 Tests in a row.
Peter Nevill and Wade have had stints in the job in the last two-and-a-half years without nailing down the position, leaving the door wide open for Paine at the start of the Ashes.
South ‘s Alex Carey was also in the frame but, like Wade and Nevill, could not mount an impressive case for selection.
“It’s a great position to be not having to worry about the wicketkeeper, so you can work on the top-six depth around the country and our replacement bowlers when we need them,” Healy said.
“He’s established himself in that mentality very quickly.”
Paine, the incumbent Twenty20 stumper, can be a three-format player if selectors decide he should replace the incumbent Wade in the one-day international side for the series against England.
Wade has been ‘s keeper in the 50-over arena since Haddin retired after the 2015 World Cup.
“It’s a matter of what their thinking is with Wadey. Was it total or just a Test match replacing they needed to do,” Healy said.
“Tim Paine could definitely handle the one-day job as well. I don’t know how difficult that is with shorter and sharper tours if that’s too draining. While the captain’s doing it the keeper could do it. It will be interesting to see what selectors are thinking regarding Wadey.”
Healy interpreted Nevill’s non-selection as a sign selectors had moved on from him with Wade and Carey now viewed as the back-up choices behind Paine.