Former Australia Test captain Tim Paine will return to first-class cricket this week after 20 months away, resuming a playing career that ground to a halt following a sexting scandal.
The 37-year-old wicketkeeper will feature for Tasmania against Queensland in the Sheffield Shield on Thursday, despite missing out on a state contract for the season.
Paine stepped away from playing duties when details came to light of a historic investigation into a 2017 text message exchange between Paine and a female employee at Cricket Tasmania.
It meant he missed out on leading Australia into the 2021-22 Ashes series, resigning just weeks before the battle with England began. Paine's last first-class match saw him represent Tasmania against Western Australia in April 2021.
Ahead of his return at Allan Border Field in Brisbane, Paine said: "I'm pretty fresh, that's for sure."
Quoted by ABC, he added: "I've obviously been training for five, six weeks. I'm ready to go, excited, obviously a bit nervous, but looking forward to it."
Paine was backed by Tasmania coach Jeff Vaughan, who said team selectors were "quite unanimous" he should be welcomed back, describing him as "one of the world's best wicketkeepers".
"We have absolute faith and trust in Tim and his preparation," Vaughan said, quoted on cricket.com.au. "Physically he is probably in the greatest spot of his physical career, emotionally he is sound."
The return of Paine has also been backed in the Australia ranks, with T20 captain Aaron Finch saying: "I think Australian cricket is better for having Tim involved in a playing capacity."
Reports in Australia on Tuesday claimed Paine is set to give his side of the sexting story in a new book.