Andrew McGlashan in Brisbane

If Tim Paine and Dinesh Chandimal find the moment for a chat during this brief series they won't be short of captaincy stories to share. One is the accidental skipper, the other the captain of a team where the longevity of the role can be decided on the whim of an administrator.

They are also linked, dare we say, by the spectre of ball-tampering. It was the infamous use of sandpaper in Cape Town that propelled Paine into his current position nine months ago and Chandimal was found guilty of the offence during the second Test against West Indies in St Lucia last July.

While Australia were caught red-handed and could offer no defence, the Sri Lankans did not take the situation lying down. The refused to take the field on the third day, delaying play by two hours before a truce was reached. But the outcome was that Chandimal, along with the team manager Asanka Gurusinha and coach Chandika Hathurusingha, were suspended for the two Tests against South Africa.

All that meant Chandimal wasn't present for Sri Lanka's series-levelling win in Barbados or the 2-0 win over South Africa which followed. Then he was only able to play one of three Tests against England due to a hamstring injury. That series was lost 3-0 on home soil, a real kick in the guts for Sri Lanka, and while the 1-0 loss in New Zealand was more expected, it has all left Chandimal with some catching up to do.

Still, it's not a patch on the job Paine has had to undertake. After the emergency role in Johannesburg he had to wait until October to start the Test captaincy for real. That began with a 1-0 loss against Pakistan in the UAE - hardly surprising given Australia's travails in Ashes - followed by the recent 2-1 defeat against India.

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India played some magnificent cricket and were worthy winners. They could well have beaten an Australia team in far better shape than this one. But the series continued to shine a spotlight on the major issues in Australia: selection uncertainty and weak batting at the top of the list. Usually a visit of Sri Lanka would be seen as almost a given for Australia to win (11 wins and two draws in the head-to-head is a one-sided history) but such is the upheaval that has gone on that, while an Australia win remains favourite, it is by no means a certainty.

Tim Paine watches on from the dressing room Getty Images
Through all the challenges, Paine, who had almost lost his voice on the eve of this Test, has carried himself with dignity and, at times, no little humour. He was, without doubt, the right captain for the moment but that doesn't mean he can afford to not turn around fortunes. Victory over Sri Lanka would not mean everything was okay again, but it would afford Paine a chance to take stock in a more positive frame of mind ahead of the Ashes later this year.

For Chandimal, a defeat on tour is unlikely to make or break his captaincy - which dates back to 2017 - although in Sri Lankan cricket you can never quite tell. His team are in the midst of a very challenging overseas spell playing New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The expectation is that will come away with very little, so in one sense Chandimal doesn't have much to lose but he has spoken of his desire to be the captain who ends the team's wait for success in Australia.

It will be an awkward feeling for him that Sri Lanka's best victories in recent times (Barbados and the South Africa series) have come without him in the team. That would all be forgotten with a win in Brisbane or Canberra. In his favour is that the captaincy appears to have suited his batting: his average as captain is 46.30, three runs higher than his career number, and has included fine centuries in Abu Dhabi, Delhi and, before the ball-tampering, St Lucia.

Paine has also played his part with the bat, to the extent that he was Australia's second-highest run-scorer last year albeit in a narrow field. He fronted up well against India but could not convert his starts. There was even an argument he should bat higher, but that appears unlikely to happen. He has enough on his plate.

Both captains are also operating with coaches firmly in the spotlight. Justin Langer is trying to rebuild the culture around the Australian team (elite honesty and all that) while Hathurusingha is a forceful figure, believed to be the highest paid Sri Lanka coach in their history and not a man to take fools kindly. His response to Sri Lanka's ongoing no-ball problem was refreshingly blunt: "It's about being aware of the white line in front of you basically."

Ultimately, though, captains can only work with what they have. Australia's main absentees are well documented while Sri Lanka are without Angelo Mathews for this series and settling into life without Rangana Herath. There is hope for both to cling to as well: Steven Smith and David Warner will be back sometime soon while Sri Lanka have some talented young players.

In the short term, however, there is plenty for them to ponder. Paine is trying to lead his side to much-needed late-season victory while Chandimal is trying to defy history. Whoever comes out on top in the next couple of weeks will feel just a little bit better about life at the helm.