Star Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon heaped praise on Test captain Tim Paine and hopes that the 35-year-old "goes on for a lot longer".
Paine's initiation into Test captaincy was a difficult one as he was elevated to the position amid the ball-tampering scandal in March 2018, which cost Australia two of their top players in David Warner and Steve Smith, who were slapped with one-year suspensions by Cricket Australia.
However, after a few undesirable outcomes early on in his stint, Paine's side has shown marked improvement in recent months. He even became the first Australian captain to retain the Ashes in England in 18 years, when his team drew the 2019 series 2-2. Lyon feels that Paine has been outstanding as the team's leader and feels he's getting better.
"Tim Paine's been absolutely incredible for the Australian cricket team," Lyon said in a video conference with reporters. "The way he's gone out and led has been unbelievable. He was well respected as a player when he first came back to the Australian set-up but even throughout the domestic competition, he has been well respected.
"He seems to be getting better as captain. I love playing under him, the way he brings his humour in to distract opposition or having a little bit of banter. I think it's absolutely priceless and I think the Australian public really respects Tim."
Lyon revealed that he shares a great personal rapport with the wicket-keeper and hopes that Paine continues in the leadership role for "a lot longer".
Australia coach Justin Langer has urged players to remain optimistic in the midst of the current global crisis.— ICC (@ICC) March 26, 2020
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"We tend to ask a lot of questions of each other with my bowling and his keeping. I do believe he's up there with the best 'keepers I've ever bowled to, which gives me a lot of confidence when I'm running in to bowl. His knowledge of the game and his view from the stumps, he knows when I'm bowling well and when I need to improve in certain areas."
One of Australia's more painful series defeats under Paine came in the 2018-19 home season when India, who had never before claimed a series down under, won 2-1. Australia have a chance to set things right later this year should the series take place as scheduled. Australia are a much-improved side now with Smith and Warner back in the ranks, and Lyon is excited to see how the series unfolds.
"I'm excited about the prospect of India coming out here in Australia," Lyon said. "It's up there with the biggest series alongside the Ashes, and obviously they're an absolute powerhouse of the cricket world. To have those guys here is going to be absolutely fantastic. They had the wood over us the last time they came out here, but I feel like we're a much stronger Australian cricket side at the moment."
“I’ve got no doubt in 10 years’ time, I will look back on that period and it will be the making of my coaching career.”— ICC (@ICC) April 12, 2020
Justin Langer reflects on Australia's tough loss to India in the 2018-19 Test series at home 👇https://t.co/yTOYkzAds4
The resumption of cricket, however, is still a distant idea amid the ongoing global health crisis, which has forced the world into lockdown. For Lyon, the silver-lining of the situation is the rare stretch of extended time he's getting to spend with his family.
"This is the only time that I feel I can spend time with my family here in Sydney, which has been absolutely exceptional. It's not very often we get to spend this much time at home and spend that time with my family, my partner and my two kids, which has been exceptional. You've got to look at the positive at the moment, and that's one big positive for me."
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