Paine’s pain: mental demons haunted my career
TIM Paine is a mentally tough cricketer but reveals even he has not been immune from the psychological scars left by the injury that almost ruined his career.
The 34-year-old last week broke through for his first century in 13 first-class seasons, a watershed moment that has given the Australian captain a timely confidence boost heading into what could be the most scrutinised summer of his career.
In the background, the clock is ticking on Steve Smith's captaincy ban and Alex Carey continues to state his case as a wicketkeeper-in-waiting, yet Paine has been buoyed by what his classy hundred for Tasmania proved to him - that crucially, he is still improving as a cricketer.
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Paine admits it took him years to mentally deal with the fact his batting would never return to what it was before the devastating finger injury which tore his career apart and almost forced him to quit before his stunning second chance in Test cricket arrived out of nowhere.
Despite the immense role he has played in leading Australia out of its greatest ever crisis, some question marks started to be raised in England about his numbers with the bat.
But heading into Friday's Sheffield Shield clash against NSW where he will take guard against half of his Test bowling attack, Paine feels he has come back from a tough Ashes campaign a better batsman, with any lingering mental demons left well in the past.
"There's no secret from the finger injury I had, my batting just never came back to the level it was beforehand," Paine said.
"I had to change some things with my grip because of how I now hold the bat, but that took me a couple of years to get right and I think I carried some mental scars with me for a while.
"I had a really lean trot and just couldn't get out of it. The last three or four years I've been batting quite well and always looked good at the wicket, but haven't been able to cash in and bat for a long period of time.
"To do that was exactly the way I wanted to start the summer."
"I just think it's a bit of confidence," Paine said about his breakthrough hundred.
"I wasn't on my own (not scoring runs in England), it's a hard place to bat, but I think I actually improved as a player because of how difficult it was.
"I noticed last week, I was playing the ball a bit later, being a bit stiller, which is stuff I was working on in England for the swinging ball and now I'm back in Australia and it's not swinging as much, I found batting was a little easier.
"It's always good that even at my age, you can go to a place, experience something and come back and have learnt from it and become a better player. The moment I'm not getting better is the moment I won't be playing. I was really glad the way that went."