Keep an eye on the young bloke batting up the order for Australia when they meet the Black Caps in Monday's first Twenty20 international – Josh Philippe. The emerging star is one man who could help nail shut the coffin of Tim Paine's besieged international cricket career.
Philippe, 23, is playing as a batsman in the first T20 while Matthew Wade, recently axed from Australia's test team, keeps wicket. Philippe, however is the big wicketkeeper-batsman hope of the future – a dangerous, 360-degree shot maker.
The music is playing in terms of Australian wicketkeepers and, when it stops in the not-too-distant future, there might not be a chair available for Paine, the 36-year-old test captain who had such a poor test series in losing to India.
Previously regarded as the best wicketkeeper-batsman in Australia, Paine is now 36, with a less-than-stellar recent record as skipper. He was brought in to stabilise the Aussies after their cheating scandal but there is no version of the word "stabilise" that means "losing".
Even rhino-skinned Australians must have been embarrassed at his ability to sledge and inability to back it up. Millions of people heard Paine pick on India's Ravi Ashwin in the third test in Sydney when the wounded Indians hung on for a draw: "Jeez, I can't wait to get you to the Gabba, Ash. I tell you what." Ashwin: "Just like we can't wait to get you to India. It will be your last series."
That got under Paine's skin; a barb of truth, perhaps: "Maybe, are you a selector here as well? At least my teammates like me, dickhead. I've got more Indian friends than you. Even your teammates think you're a goose, don't they? Every one of them. Wait till you get to the Gabba, pal."
Thing was, the Indians – missing 11 top players – pulled off a famous victory at the Gabba to take the series. Aussies don't like losers, especially losers who call people names in the field of sporting endeavour but drop the prize the sledging is designed to achieve. Paine has now failed as captain to bring home the last three close contests – at Headingley in the Ashes in 2019, the third test against India in Sydney and the fourth test at the Gabba.
Worse, he kept wicket like someone drafted in from the crowd after one too many at lunch, dropping four big chances over two test matches. He also missed stumping Indian match-winner Rishabh Pant at the Gabba, an opportunity which might have given one of the most absorbing test matches of all time a different ending.
The Aussie selectors gave him the dreaded vote of confidence and selected him as captain for the subsequently abandoned series against South Africa – but also promoted another talented wicketkeeper-batsman, Alex Carey, from the limited-overs set-up into the test squad. That shines a light not only on Australia's cricketing riches but also the heir to the (wicketkeeping) throne.
Carey is a fine player, but will turn 30 this year. Wade is already 33 and seemingly on the slide. Keepers traditionally keep themselves fit, but even the great Adam Gilchrist was 36 when he handed over the gloves – so there seems to be a clear and obvious path for Philippe.
He's emerged this summer, named player of the tournament in Australia's BBL T20 league in helping the Sydney Sixers defend their title, scoring 508 runs at an average of 31.8 and strike rate of just under 150 and good enough to play as a batsman alone.
He also played in the previous IPL in India with the Royal Challengers Bangalore – Kyle Jamieson's new team – rubbing shoulders with Indian captain Virat Kohli, South African dasher AB de Villiers and Australian T20 skipper Aaron Finch who says: "He's someone who has obviously got all the shots...when he's playing well, it's lights out, it's brilliant. But [even] those days when he's not feeling 100 per cent, he's getting through that little danger period and still having a big impact on the game, which I think is so important in T20 cricket."
Paine, on the other hand, could be about to exit the Australian test scene, due to host another Ashes series in November.
Not so long ago, the Aussies were renowned as the most adept in pressure situations; a team that always found someone and something to pull off the win. That is not happening much under Paine; there are growing calls for Steve Smith to be returned to the captaincy.
The clincher is that Australia were beaten by a wounded and inexperienced India, essentially a B team – something no Australian selector stomachs easily. Missing from India's ranks, for a variety of reasons, was an entire team of class internationals, headed by captain and world-class batsman Kohli. Other batsmen missing were opener KL Rahul and the hero of the saved third test, Hanuma Vihari. All-rounders? Gone were Ashwin, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Bowlers – world-class quicks like Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah were all unavailable.
So watch out for Philippe in this T20 series – you might be getting a preview of a long-time opponent and star of the future.