Waugh was part of the inner-sanctum for the Australians when they defended the Ashes in England and has been deeply impressed with how Paine has grown as a leader after being parachuted into one of the most difficult roles in the sport.
“It’s definitely been undersold. He came in at one of the most tumultuous times in Australian cricket history. He and Justin Langer really turned it around,” Waugh said.
“Tim has done an amazing job. I don’t know where all this talk is coming from … it’s very premature. He let the team create their own identity and evolve, they’ve done well in England … let’s see what they can do in Australia and take it from there.
“But to start talking about a captaincy change, I think that’s a lack of respect.”
Paine has been given the backing of Cricket Australia and if he performs well in the home Test summer, which features matches against Pakistan and New Zealand, should be safe in the role until he sees fit to step down.
But it’s unlikely to stop the drums beating for Smith to potentially return to the top job when Paine does step down, although whether that’s the right move for both Smith and the team remains to be seen.
Paine had his captaincy questioned at times during the Ashes and didn’t enjoy a strong series with the bat, although that could be said for a number of the Australians outside of the genius of Smith.
Waugh knows what it takes to lead a national side and Paine has done wonders off the field for the reputation of Australian cricket. He sat through endless press conferences apologising for an incident he had nothing to do with and vowed to make fans proud of the baggy green once more.
Given the reception Smith and David Warner have been getting in their early T20 appearances, it appears much of the reputational damage has been repaired, while Paine should find this summer’s opponents a touch easier than the English in swinging and seaming conditions.
Paine himself says he would have no issue if Smith was to captain the side once more after he left the post. That decision will be a key one for Cricket Australia and may well test the boundaries of how forgiving they can be after the South African saga.