SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia captain Tim Paine believes test cricketers would be prepared to play a lot of matches in a short space of time once the coronavirus crisis is over to ensure the World Test Championship can be completed as scheduled next year.

International cricket, like most other sports, has been shut down while the world battles the pandemic and Paine said it did not take “Einstein” to conclude that Australia’s tour of Bangladesh would probably not go ahead in June.

With other tours also on hold, it has been suggested that the International Cricket Council might need to push back the conclusion of the inaugural edition of the test championship.

Paine hoped it would not be pushed back too far and said he thought players would favour playing catch-up to finish it as planned with a final between the top two teams at Lord’s on June 10, 2021.

“Maybe the players are going to have to go through a period where we play quite a bit of cricket if we want to complete the test championship as it is,” the 35-year-old wicketkeeper said in a teleconference on Tuesday.

“I think the players are certainly enjoying that points system and the fact that every test match counts for something … I think all players would be in favour of trying to finish that any way we can.”

Paine reiterated that winning the championship was a big goal for his team, who are currently second in the standings behind India. The Indians are scheduled to play four tests in Australia at the end of the year.

With Steve Smith’s two-year ban on holding a leadership role in the team – imposed after the Newlands ball-tampering scandal – having expired at the weekend, Paine was also quizzed about the batsman’s possible return to the captaincy.

Making it clear he would not be standing aside prematurely to make way for the former skipper, Paine said he would support it if that is what Smith wanted.

“I haven’t had that conversation with Steve, I probably will at some stage no doubt,” Paine said.

“It’s obviously something that he loves doing … so if Steve Smith decides that’s the way he wants to go, then I will fully support him in trying to do it again.”

Paine also said the players accepted that a delay to the announcement of Cricket Australia’s contract list might mean pay cuts.

“We’ve certainly got to do our bit to make sure the game survives and remains really healthy for years to come,” he said.

“So if it comes to that, I’m sure that’s something that the players will look at. But there are bigger issues around the world at the moment beyond what sportsmen are being paid.”

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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