MELBOURNE (REUTERS) – Tim Paine will miss the Ashes series against England while on a “leave of absence” from all cricket, state body Cricket Tasmania (CT) said on Friday (Nov 26), a week after the wicketkeeper stepped down from the Australian captaincy over a “sexting” scandal.

Paine was due to play for Tasmania in a domestic one-day match in Hobart on Friday but will be unavailable for “the foreseeable future”, the state association said in a brief statement.

“Cricket Tasmania will continue to support Tim and his family both professionally and personally over the summer,” it said.

Speculation over Paine’s place in the test team has been rife since his resignation over revelations that he was investigated for sending sexually explicit text messages to a female former Cricket Tasmania staffer four years ago.

Paine was cleared after a 2018 investigation by CT and Cricket Australia (CA) but said last Friday he did not want to be a distraction for preparations for the five-test Ashes.

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said this week that Paine’s selection against England would still prove distracting for the team. Paine’s teammates, including spinner Nathan Lyon, said they hoped he would remain in the side.

The first Ashes test starts in Brisbane on Dec 8.

Paine, who was the only specialist wicketkeeper named in Australia’s 15-man Ashes squad, is likely to be replaced by experienced white ball wicketkeeper Alex Carey or Josh Inglis, both of whom were named in the recent Australia ‘A’ squad.

Relinquishing his place could spell the end of 36-year-old Paine’s international career after 35 tests.

Paine’s resignation from the captaincy triggered acrimony between the state and national cricket associations, with CT accusing CA of hanging Paine out to dry.

CA chairman Richard Freudenstein said last week his current board would not have endorsed Paine as captain if presented with the same circumstances as the previous board in 2018.

Australia are expected to name fast bowler Pat Cummins as captain in the coming days.

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