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Days before Ashes, Paine shocker as he decides to step away from cricket indefinitely

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Sydney, Nov 26 (IANS) A week after sending shockwaves by resigning as Australia’s Test skipper, wicketkeeper-batter Tim Paine again created ripples in the cricketing ecosystem here on Friday by stepping away from “all forms of cricket for the foreseeable future” following the fallout from the sexting scandal that cost him the captaincy.

Curiously, Paine, who had made himself available for selection in the squad for the Ashes series beginning at the Gabba on December 8 and had played a games for Tasmania Second XI to get some valuable match practice ahead of the series against the Joe Root-led England, has made the shocking announcement 12 days before the clash against the arch-rivals.

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Paine’s manager, James Henderson, tweeted early on Friday, “Confirming that @tdpaine36 is stepping away from cricket for an indefinite mental health break. We are extremely concerned for his and Bonnie’s (Paine’s wife) well-being and will be making no further comment at this time.”

Paine has not given a firm decision on when he plans to return to playing. The Cricket Australia (CA) selection committee’s immediate task is to look for a wicketkeeper who will fit into Paine’s shoes with less than two weeks left for the Gabba Test.

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Some former Australian cricketers have thrown their weight behind Alex Carey and Josh Inglis, and the duo has been named in the Australia A squad that will assemble in Brisbane this weekend. CA selectors will be watching their form closely during Australia’s intra-squad practice games next week.

Paine was progressing well following the invasive neck surgery he underwent in September and played his first game in three months representing Tasmania’s Second XI. He had also been named to play a Marsh One-Day Cup game for the Tigers on Friday where he was set to keep wicket and bat at No.3.

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The 37-year-old would then have flown to Queensland on Saturday to join the Australian squad, reports cricket.com.au. “But in a shock statement this morning, Cricket Tasmania confirmed the 36-year-old would instead be stepping away from the game,” said the website.

“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’s statement read.

“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.”

Former Test skipper Ricky Ponting had said earlier this week that the fallout from the sexting scandal “would be disruptive as long as Paine remained in the Ashes squad”.

“I think inevitably it will (be a distraction),” Ponting told cricket.com.au. “Yes, he’s made a huge call for himself, for Australian cricket and for the betterment of the Australian cricket team. But it’s not going to go away.”



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