The 33-year-old was given the difficult task of rebuilding Australian cricket’s tarnished image after the sledging and ball-tampering episodes in South Africa back in March, which saw then captain Steve Smith and openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft given lengthy bans.
This is the first time since that infamous series that the famous Baggy Green cap will be worn on to the field of play and Paine and his team mates will be relieved that it is being done far from the glare of their native land.
The Tasmanian wicketkeeper does not, however, see the series as a new beginning for the team.
“What happened was unfortunate but we’ve got to move on,” Paine said at a brief media conference at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on the eve of the Test.
“Yes it’s a new group of players and a new coach but we’re still the Australian Test team, that hasn’t changed. It’s really exciting. We’re going to have three guys debut the next couple of days.
“I suppose it is a little bit of a new era but we’re hopeful that the guys that were involved in that will be back in the next six to eight months.”
The new look team to play against Pakistan shows five changes from the ball tampering XI: the suspended Smith, Warner and Bancroft, as well as speedsters Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood (both ruled out through injury).
Remaining are Paine, the Marsh brothers – Shaun and new vice-captain Mitchell, off spinner Nathan Lyon, top order batsmen Usman Khawaja and speedster Mitchell Starc.
They are joined by three debutants – South Australian captain Travis Head, limited overs specialist Aaron Finch and South African born Queensland bat, Marnus Labuschagne.
The other two spots are taken by two recalled veterans from Victoria – medium pacer Peter Siddle and left arm off spinner Jon Holland.
Also gone is coach Darren Lehmann, replaced by the astute Justin Langer.
Paine is aware of the responsibility that rests with this chosen XI, whose every action on the field will be closely watched and dissected over the next fortnight.
But repairing the image of Australian cricket aside, Paine says the main focus in the Test series “is about winning.”
“We’re playing international sport so it’s the highest level and at the end of the day as players when it’s all said and done we’ll be judged on how many games we’ve won. So that’s really important.
“But on the flip side of that, the image of Australian cricket is also really important to me and Justin and the rest of our team so we’re going to be going about things in a really professional, really respectful manner and we’ll continue to do that for the forseeable future while we’re all involved.”
Handshake culture.. good for cricket, says Sarfraz Ahmed... so both Pakistan and Australian players will shake hands before the start of the Dubai Test... Sarfraz accepted Tim Paine's request— Shahid Hashmi (@hashmi_shahid) October 6, 2018
It’s impossible to know the conversations that have gone on behind closed doors about on-field behaviour but it was noticeable that the Australian team we’re very restrained in their “chat” against Pakistan ‘A’ in the four-day warm up game at the ICC Academy.
For now it seems the days of ‘mental dis-integration’ are over.
The infamous “sledging” tactic that rose to prominence in the Steve Waugh era has fueled much of Australia’s success over the last decade or so.
But it’s hard to imagine two more different leaders than Waugh and Paine, with the current captain admitting as much in the presser.
“I’m probably a little more inclusive than other cricket captains have been in the past,” he said.
“I’ve come from a footy background so I’m a big believer in the power of the team and certainly take the value and opinions of my team mates really seriously.
“We’re all involved to some point in a lot of the decisions that are made and I think that’s really important when you’re trying to get buy in and trying to get guys to play for you.”
The Australians will play for their new captain and their nation over the next week – but the way they do it is yet to be seen.
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