The priority of Tasmania coach Ali de Winter has been Tim Paine’s welfare as he prepares to help the wicketkeeper take another significant step towards the first Ashes Test.
Paine, who underwent neck surgery in September, will bat at first drop on Friday while playing his first game for Tasmania since April.
The one-dayer against Western Australia in Hobart comes after a low-key return for Tasmania’s second XI at Lindisfarne Oval, where Paine was out for one and seven.
The one-day game will also mark one week since Paine tearfully resigned as Australia’s Test skipper amid revelations of a sexting episode in 2017.
De Winter, the state’s interim head coach, can’t wait to welcome the 36-year-old back but noted cricket has not been the focus of recent conversations with the disgraced wicketkeeper.
“I’ve known Tim since he was 13 years old, (it’s about) making sure that he’s OK in all of this,” de Winter told reporters in Hobart.
“His own health through this is first and foremost.
“He’s obviously having some deep challenges but I think having good people around him and his cricket mates is the best tonic he can have, aside from his family.
“He’s got that ability to just have a fine focus and keep things externally out that can affect his cricket. He’s been very good at doing that.
“That would have been the biggest challenge I sense, for him to be able to shut that out knowing the spotlight was on.”
De Winter added the support for Paine throughout Tasmania’s squad had been “overwhelming”.
“We’re rallying around in strong support of Tim because we know people are fallible,” he said.
“People make mistakes. We also know deep down the kind of person Tim Paine is.”
Paine finished this week’s four-day match with nine catches but, far more importantly, navigated his return without any obvious setback.
“He’s managed himself through this game quite well. He’s a little bit heavy in the legs, having had a couple of days in the field,” de Winter said.
“But that was the expectation.”