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‘I’d sit on the couch crying’ – Paine opens up on career-threatening injury

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Australia Test captain Tim Paine has opened up about his struggle with mental health after a serious injury threatened to derail his fledgling career in 2010.

Paine, under whose leadership Australia retained the Ashes last year, spoke about the “downward spiral” he encountered after being hit on the finger by a Dirk Nannes bouncer during an All-Stars charity game, which led to a broken right index bone that required seven surgeries.

Speaking on the Bounce Back podcast, Paine spoke about the difficult two-year phase that followed the nasty 148.2kph bouncer in Brisbane.

“When I started training and playing again I wasn’t too bad until I started to face guys who bowled a lot quicker,’’ Paine said.

“And they’d be running in and instead of thinking about hitting the ball, I was thinking: ‘Geez I hope he doesn’t hit me on the finger’. From there it was just a downward spiral. I lost absolutely all confidence. I didn’t tell anyone about it.

“The truth is, one, I was scared of getting hit and two, I just didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Paine suffered a loss of confidence, and it had an impact off the field too. The situation worsened when Paine lost his place in the Tasmanian side for two years, leading him to even contemplate retirement.

“I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat,” Paine said. “I was so nervous before games, I was horrible to live with. I was pretty ordinary to my partner, who is now my wife (Bonnie). I was always angry and took out that I wasn’t doing well on other people.

“I was embarrassed at what I had become. No one knew I was struggling, not my mates, not my partner. There were times when she was at work and I’d sit on the couch crying. It was weird and it was painful.”

A turning point came when he decided to reveal his anguish to a sport psychologist with Cricket Australia.

“I sat with her for maybe only 20 minutes that first time and I remember walking out of that room and instantly feeling better, that I had let someone in.

“And, in the end, the first step to dealing with it was admitting that I needed help. It still took six (more) months, but I remember walking out of that room and feeling instantly better. I wish I had sought help earlier.’’

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