As captain Tim Paine stares down the barrell of an unwanted piece of history, one of the key men behind Australia's rise out of the doldrums of the 1980s has forecast blue skies for the embattled team, boldly predicting they can savour World Cup and Ashes glory in England next year.
Assigned the job of leading the team out of one of Australian cricket's darkest periods in 30 years, Paine is shouldering a burden like few others who have worn the captain's blazer.
Unwanted stat: Tim Paine has not won a Test in his four games at the helm.Credit:AAP
On top of his duties with the gloves, Paine is leading a side stripped of their two best batsmen, invariably coming to the crease with the side under pressure and now nursing a sore finger.
If Paine's men cannot level the series in Perth, the Tasmanian will become the only Test captain in Australia's history not to have won a match in his first five games at the helm.
Former Test great Ian Healy can see correlations between the current side and the Allan Border-led team he joined in 1988 that was recovering from another South Africa-related controversy – the rebel tours.
Back then Australia emerged from a horror stretch in which the Test side went through eight series without a series victory. A year after Healy's debut, they defied all expectations by reclaiming the Ashes in England, having won the World Cup in 1987.
Healy rates the current attack of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon as superior to that built around Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes but not so with the batting, where half the top six are yet to reach five Tests.
The batting will be bolstered if Steve Smith and David Warner, who are serving 12-month bans, are recalled for the Ashes.
Healy was encouraged by the fight they displayed in Dubai when they saved a Test against the odds and in Adelaide, where they pushed India to the brink.
"They've shown great signs, I think, that will even cement itself further by the time they get to England," Healy said.
"They'll be well hardened by then and what they want to achieve in Test cricket.
"A nice build-up to the Ashes is handy. I think we're capable of winning the World Cup and the Ashes, that's how optimistic I am."
Few give Australia any hope of defending their World Cup crown after winning only three of their past 23 games, while England are favourite to regain the urn.
Healy, who broke all his fingers but only missed one Test in his 119-match career, believes Paine has more pressing issues than his injury scare.
"I don't see pain being Paine's issue," Healy said. "The stress of the game is the thing, they're under real pressure not to lose. What's the priority, are we winning or not losing? That's a stressful environment they're going into one down. That's what's going to bring him the most stress.
"Now he's really tested as a captain, how much he trusts his troops. He can't spend energy worrying about others in the team otherwise he will wear himself out."
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