|| AFP ||
Tim Paine could return to cricket despite being "shattered" by a sexting scandal that saw him quit as Test skipper and step away from the sport, Australia coach Justin Langer said Saturday.
Langer made a surprise trip from the team camp in Brisbane to Hobart during the week to see Paine, who turns 37 on Wednesday, calling him "a really close friend" and "one of the best people I've met in the game of cricket".
"He's been our captain for a long time, he and I have been through a journey, so it was nice to go down and see him," Langer said in Brisbane, speaking for the first time since the scandal blew up two weeks ago.
"You'll have to ask him how he's going, but when I saw him he's obviously shattered with what's happened because he has been an exemplary figure in Australian cricket, for the last four years particularly. And his life changed."
Paine's playing future is unclear after he took an indefinite break, but Langer suggested he could be back, while lamenting the "heavy price" paid by the Tasmanian.
"He loves cricket. I think he's 37 and he is as fit as any athlete certainly in our squad, and we have some fit athletes," he said.
"He looks after himself so well, he's really focused, so who knows. His number one priority at the moment is his family as you can imagine, and that's how it should be.
"I'm not sure we've seen the end of him, but we'll wait and see. That's his decision."
In the wake of the controversy, Pat Cummins was appointed as the first fast bowler to lead Australia since 1956.
England are expected to exploit his captaincy inexperience when the opening Test gets under way on Wednesday in Brisbane, but Langer said he wasn't worried, with deputy and former captain Steve Smith on hand to guide him.
"I think the role of Steve Smith will become very important on the field... David Warner has as good a cricket brain as anyone in the game, and Alex Carey's been a captain before and he's now behind the stumps," he said.
"He's got his best mates there (Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc), they'll all have their view on it so I think he will be fine strategically.
"It will just be maintaining the balance with his bowling role, captaining and all the other commitments that come with it. But he's has got massive upside, Pat Cummins, as a leader and captain of Australian cricket."