PAUL NEWMAN: Tim Paine was meant to be the acceptable face of Australia after Sandpapergate… but his macho act was laughable, he was never good enough and today’s tearful end to his captaincy suggests deeply ingrained cultural problems
Tim Paine was supposed to be Mr Nice Guy, the squeaky clean acceptable face of Australian cricket perfectly qualified to drag the reputation of the Baggy Green out of the gutter in the aftermath of the Sandpaper-gate scandal. Well, that went well.
It has taken a lot for English cricket’s race crisis to be knocked off the top of the game’s news agenda this week, at least temporarily. But somehow the Aussies managed it on Friday with the sight of yet another disgraced captain resigning in tears.
Paine never actually was what Australia thought he would be. Instead of being the safe pair of gloved hands on the tiller they desperately needed he became a figure of fun who did not contribute much at all as a batsman, keeper or indeed captain.
Tim Paine was brought in as a safe pair of hands as Australia cricket captain back in 2018
He was supposed to lead the team forward after Sandpapergate but now it has ended in tears
Paine has issued a public and emotional apology to his wife Bonnie after his sexting scandal
You only have to remember the complete mess Paine made of his tactics and his hapless use of DRS when Ben Stokes was winning the Headingley Test of 2019 single-handedly to realise a man without a century in 35 Tests was no Mike Brearley.
Paine spent most of his time trying to come across as a macho Aussie but instead tied himself up in verbal knots, like confusing the wisdom of David Icke for Winston Churchill before the 2019 Ashes. Or telling Ravi Ashwin ‘wait till we get you to Brisbane,’ when Australia played India early this year. That went well, too.
And, with the sweetest of ironies, Paine’s last real gaffe came when he showed a complete lack of empathy to a fellow professional at a time when England were understandably concerned about Australia’s Draconian Covid regulations by saying ‘The first Test will start at Brisbane on December 8 whether Joe Root is there or not.’
The England captain will be at the Gabba, don’t worry about that Tim, but surely you won’t be now. For almost the most laughable part of Friday’s all too familiar emotional staged apology was the bit about Paine still being available for selection for the Ashes. That is, if he can recover from a swollen disc. Truly, you could not make it up.
Paine was not the first Aussie captain to cry in front of the media – in 2018 it was Steve Smith
Paine’s wife Bonnie, whom he has been married to for five years, was aware of the messages at the time but chose to stick by him
Paine, 36, sent a photo of his penis to a female co-worker along with a stream of lewd text messages
He was not good enough when Australia appointed him for wont of credible alternatives when accusations of cheating were hanging over Australia more than three years ago and he certainly isn’t good enough now. Alex Carey and Matthew Wade are far better alternatives as keeper-batsmen.
But tempting as it is to indulge in schadenfreude at the old enemy’s misfortune so close to the first Test – and how welcome it is Australia will be wrapped up in their own scandal rather than concentrate on England’s when battle begins in Brisbane – there is a very serious side to the emergence of the skeleton in Paine’s cupboard.
For Cricket Australia stand accused of a cover up that, with echoes of the revelations that have rocked English cricket this week, suggest deeply ingrained cultural problems at the heart of another of cricket’s biggest and most powerful nations.
Paine was made captain in March 2018 after Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft had carried the can for the ball-tampering against South Africa in Cape Town that, implausibly, no-one else was said to know anything about.
And it was not until three months later, it is claimed, that Cricket Australia and Paine’s home state of Tasmania were made aware of the allegations of sexual harassment against the country’s captain by a former Cricket Tasmania employee.
An investigation was carried out but surely someone within the governing body must have realised it had to be made public. It is not good enough to say Paine was exonerated now because it was always like to come back to bite them when it most hurts.
Instead this is another example in cricket’s growing charge sheet of sweeping unacceptable behaviour under the carpet in the hope no-one notices. And yesterday was far, far too late for the Aussie board to say they did not condone Paine’s behaviour.
‘I spoke to my wife at the time and am enormously grateful for her forgiveness,’ Paine said
Paine’s misdemeanours hint at a deeply-ingrained cultural problem inside Cricket Australia
They must have condoned it in 2018. They must have considered their attempts to build a more wholesome ‘brand’ under Paine and a true Baggy Green devotee in Justin Langer more important than doing what is right by the game and the woman involved.
The bottom line is that Cricket Australia rightly punished Smith, Warner and Bancroft when their cheating was exposed but stuck with Paine because he was meant to be a good family man when they knew about this sordid affair all along.
How the words of Paine when he became captain must make the whole of Australia wince now. ‘We want to build a culture that makes people want to be better and produce not only better cricketers but better people,’ he preached. ‘We know what’s right and we know what’s wrong. And we’ll be holding each other accountable.’
Turns out, little more than three months earlier on the very morning of the first Ashes Test, he had been sending a woman ‘a sexually explicit, unwelcome and unsolicited photograph of his genitals, in addition to graphic sexual comments.’
While news broke of the scandal on Friday, Paine said he and his wife worked through the betrayal at the time and that she’d forgiven and supported him
Pat Cummins (pictured arriving in Brisbane) is favourite to take over the Australia captaincy
Now, with less than three weeks to go before the first Test, Australia have to find a new captain and the feel-good factor generated by their shock victory in the Twenty20 World Cup last week has been dissipated at a stroke.
Their best candidate is probably Steve Smith but it would take a spectacular lack of self-awareness for Australia to go back to him now. More likely is the appointment of a man who appears a genuinely good guy in Pat Cummins, even though he will have enough to worry about trying to stay fit to spearhead their attack through five demanding Tests.
Meanwhile Australia’s peculiar experiment in attempting to turn Tim Paine into a leader worthy of following the legendary likes of Ian Chappell, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting is over. But, rather than lifting the urn again and going out in a blaze of glory, it is in a far more unexpected and unsavoury way than they can possibly have imagined.
Tim Paine’s rise and dramatic fall in sexting scandal
Australian captain Tim Paine walks to change ends during a cricket test against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground, in Sydney, Australia on Jan. 9, 2021
2010: Tim Paine makes his Test debut against Pakistan, replacing injured Brad Haddin, but is dumped upon the incumbent’s return
April 2016: Paine marries Bonnie Maggs
November 17, 2017: Granted shock recall for Ashes series
November 22-23, 2017: Paine sends lewd messages to a female coworker on the eve and morning of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane. The pair had exchanged texts throughout the year
January 2018: Selected for squad to tour South Africa
March 25, 2018: Appointed interim captain after Steve Smith and David Warner stood down over ‘sandpapergate’ ball tampering scandal
March 28, 2018: Paine is appointed captain for the 4th Test of the series, becoming the 46th captain of the Australian side
April 2018: Awarded a national contract by Cricket Australia
June 2018: Cricket Australia and Cricket Tasmania become aware of the messages and launch an investigation, following a complaint from the woman. Paine claims he was exonerated during the investigation. His wife Bonnie was aware of the messages but chose to stick by him
2018 – 2021: Paine continues as Test captain, retaining the Ashes in England in 2019
November 19, 2021: Paine steps down as full details of the explicit messages surface