Ashes 2021-22: ‘Tim Paine is the best wicketkeeper in the world’

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Australia spinner Nathan Lyon on Thursday insisted that the inclusion of underperforming Tim Paine in the playing XI for the Ashes series will not distract the hosts.

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Lyon’s remarks came after former captain Ricky Ponting said that adding Paine to the team would “essentially” be a distraction and that the drama was “nowhere to go”.

Paine stepped down as Australia’s Test captain last week after it emerged that he had sent an unsolicited explicit image of himself along with a string of lewd messages to a female colleague in 2017 months before becoming captain.

“I don’t see it as a distraction at all. At the end of the day, we are professional athletes, we know what we have to do and how we have to go about it,” Lyon told reporters.

The 34-year-old off-spinner backed Paine, saying the stumper was the “best keeper in the world”.

“The selectors always said they were going to pick the best available XI and I think Tim Paine is the best keeper in the world. I know I want him. It’s too selfish from a bowler’s point of view, I want the best gloveman behind the stumps. In my opinion, he is Tim Paine.

“Everyone will say ‘watch his movement around catching the ball’, etcetera, but when he actually catches the ball I stop the glove sound,” Lyon said.

“If you look at the best keepers in the world and you actually hear the ball sound as it goes into the glove, I think you can tell that someone is a good keeper. It’s music to my ears.”

Lyon is confident that Paine has the backing of every bowler in the team.

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“Every (Test) bowler has an extraordinary relationship with (Paine) and Tim Paine is a very sweet guy and a very respected figure within the changeroom.

“I think every bowler – I’m pretty sure I’m speaking on behalf of every bowler (in the Test team) – we want the best keeper. As I keep saying, I can’t say it any more, Tim World is the best keeper.

“Tim made a mistake, he owns it and that shows a lot of courage for me. Tim has my full support. I look forward to meeting him as soon as we get out of quarantine here.”

Paine is the only specialist wicketkeeper in Australia’s 15-man squad to face England in the upcoming Ashes, but chairman of selectors George Bailey said he is not the last one for the first Test starting in Brisbane on 8 December.

Talking about his preparation for the series, Lyon said: “For me personally, I am ready to go. To be honest, the intensity of training here in quarantine has been exceptional.

“I wouldn’t worry if the weather plays a role in our leadership. A big focus for us in the quarantine has been the time when we are training that we are going close to 100 percent.

“There has been some really good competition in the middle and throughout the net season as well,” he added.

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