Having played more games of cricket with Tim Paine than anybody else, George Bailey believes his fellow Tasmanian brings a unique perspective to the Australian Test captaincy.
Bailey once referred to Paine’s surprise international recall as “the greatest comeback since Jesus” but now suspects his long-time state teammate’s run-in with retirement enables him to bring a considered balance to the national team.
The fresh-faced wicketkeeper appeared destined for a long international career when he made his debut for Tasmania aged 20, broke into Australia's one-day side at 24 and received his Baggy Green alongside fellow debutant Steve Smith at Lord's a year later.
However, while Smith’s career took off, Paine suffered a protracted series of finger injuries and contemplated retirement before finally returning to the national team and replacing his fellow debutant in such dramatic circumstances following the ball tampering scandal in South Africa earlier this year.
Bailey believes Australia's 46th Test captain learned much from the saga which involved seven bouts of surgery on his right index finger.
“I think he's garnered a greater appreciation for other members of the team and a bit of an empathy for what different people go through,” Bailey told cricket.com.au after delivering the main address at the MCC's Bradman Luncheon.
“He was such a superstar at a young age and had such a meteoric rise – he probably didn't understand what it was like for someone on the fringe or someone who struggling.
“For Painey to go through that same situation and feel those emotions and know what it feels like to be almost on the outer of a team … this comes with age and having children no doubt as well as the injuries.”
Bailey watched on while Paine spent the majority of the 2016-17 season behind Jake Doran in Tasmania's Sheffield Shield pecking order and contemplated leaving cricket to work with equipment manufacturer Kookaburra in Melbourne.
An accomplished Ashes campaign followed Paine’s surprise national recall before the drama in Cape Town in March.
“He had a year of basically playing second XI cricket for Tasmania and the influence he had was really profound,” Bailey said.
“He just commands respect the way he goes about his business. He's a natural leader.
“It's possibly the tough Lauderdale upbringing that he had – you've got to be pretty street smart.
“He's in a great place for belief in his own game and I've got no doubt if not for some injures, he would have been in the positions that he's in (now) for a long period of time.”
Bailey and Paine are both involved in Cricket Australia's review following the ball-tampering incident which saw Smith, his deputy David Warner and Cameron Bancroft banned as well as prompting the resignation of coach Darren Lehmann.