Tim Paine has the full support of the Australian team and deserves to keep his place for the first Ashes Test against England, opener Marcus Harris said Wednesday.
Paine suddenly quit as Test captain last week over a series of lewd text messages with a female colleague in 2017 that were about to be made public.
Harris said the news came as a shock to the playing group who only learned about it 30 minutes before the official announcement.
But he backed Paine to come through the scandal and said he deserved to play in the opening Test at Brisbane on December 8 on his wicketkeeping abilities alone.
“Yes, absolutely,” Harris, who is expected to open the innings with David Warner, said when asked if he should be in the starting eleven.
“He’s done a really good job in the last few years under tough circumstances, and I think you can still probably argue that he’s the best gloveman in the country.
“I know he’s got the support of all the players,” he added, with most of them personally contacting Paine in the wake of the scandal.
“Obviously Painey is a very popular member of the group, and he was as skipper as well. So we’re looking forward to him getting up here in the next week or so and getting on with cricket.”
The 36-year-old Paine has made it clear he still wants to play for Australia with selectors needing to decide whether to cut him loose and start afresh or show loyalty.
Working against him is a lack of match practice after surgery in September for neck pain.
He made his return for Tasmania’s second XI on Monday, grabbing six catches, but was then out for a second ball duck. If he is overlooked, Alex Carey is expected to get the nod.
Harris wouldn’t be drawn on who should be the next captain, with Pat Cummins and Steve Smith seen as the frontrunners.
A five-person panel will make the decision, but it reportedly won’t include coach Justin Langer who has been told to focus on preparing the team.
Instead the job will fall to selectors George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide, Cricket Australia board member Mel Jones, chief executive Nick Hockley and chairman Richard Freudenstein.
The diminutive Harris – currently in quarantine on Australia’s Gold Coast – is in the squad after another concussion injury to Will Pucovski and is determined to grab the opportunity after a poor 2019 Ashes campaign.
He averaged just 9.66 from his three Tests in England, but he has revamped his technique, leading to a productive season with Leicestershire.
“It was obviously a tough first Test series over in England for myself,” said Harris, who has played 10 Tests so far, all with Paine as skipper.
“But I’ve had plenty of time since then to work on a few things. The proof will be in the pudding come December.”