Australian Test skipper Paine steps down amid ‘sexting’ scandal

Published November 20, 2021
HOBART: Australian Test captain Tim Paine speaks to media on Friday.—AP
HOBART: Australian Test captain Tim Paine speaks to media on Friday.—AP

MELBOURNE: Tim Paine took over the Australian test cricket team captaincy following one of the country’s biggest and most embarrassing international scandals.

He’s lost it following a more personal indiscretion.

Distraught and in tears, Paine quit as Test captain on Friday in a bombshell announcement just weeks before the Ashes series against arch-rivals England after revelations he had been investigated and cleared by Cricket Australia over sexually explicit text messages sent to a female colleague four years ago.

Veteran wicket-keeper Paine was named in a News Corp. report as being at the center of the sexting scandal. The 36-year-old appeared before media on Friday in Adelaide to announce he was resigning the captaincy but wanted to remain a member of the Test squad.

The announcement comes less than three weeks before the Dec 8 start in Brisbane of the five-Test Ashes series against England.

Paine, who underwent surgery in September to repair a pinched nerve in his neck and isn’t a certainty to be a starter in the Ashes series, became Test captain in March 2018 after Steve Smith lost the role following the sandpaper ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

During the third test match against South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town, Cameron Bancroft was caught by television cameras trying to rough up one side of the ball with sandpaper. Smith and vice-captain David Warner were found to be involved and all three received sanctions from Cricket Australia, and when Smith was dumped as captain, Paine took charge.

Until Friday.

Breaking down while reading from a statement, Paine admitted he had been investigated by the sport’s national integrity unit over messages he sent to a former Cricket Tasmania staffer in 2017, months before he was recalled to the Test team after a seven-year absence.

Though cleared of wrongdoing, the husband and father-of-three said, on reflection, his actions had not met the standards of an Australian cricket captain or the wider community.

“I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and pain that I have caused to my wife, my family, and to the other party,” Paine told reporters. “I’m sorry for any damage that this does to the reputation of our sport and I believe that it is the right decision for me to stand down as captain, effective immediately.”

Cricket Australia’s statement said its board had accepted Paine’s resignation and will look to appoint a new Test captain.

“Tim felt it was in the best interests of his family and Australian cricket to take this decision to step down as captain,” CA board chairman Richard Freudenstein said. “While the board acknowledges an investigation cleared Tim of any breach of the code of conduct regarding this matter some years ago, we respect his decision.

“CA does not condone this type of language or behavior. Despite the mistake he made, Tim has been an exceptional leader since his appointment and the board thanks him for his distinguished service.”

Cricket Australia said Paine “will continue to be available for selection in the test team through the Ashes summer. He was among the 15 players named earlier this week for the Ashes.

Paine said at the media conference that he thought the matter had been dealt with several years ago.

“I spoke to my wife and family at the time and am enormously grateful for their forgiveness and support,” Paine said. “We thought this incident was behind us and that I could focus entirely on the team, as I have done for the last three or four years. However, I recently became aware that this private text exchange was going to become public.”

Paine said he didn’t want the scandal to become “an unwelcome disruption to the team ahead of what is a huge Ashes series.”

The series is one of the most anticipated in world cricket. After the opening Test in Brisbane, further matches are scheduled for Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

“I have loved my role as captain of the Australian cricket team,” Paine said. “I’m grateful for the support of my team-mates and proud of what we’ve been able to achieve together. To them, I ask for their understanding and forgiveness. To Australian cricket fans I’m deeply sorry that my past behavior has impacted our game on the eve of the Ashes.”

Cricket Tasmania released a statement Friday saying the allegations against Paine were only raised when the female employee was charged with theft. Chairman Andrew Gaggin said no complaint was made until mid-2018 following the message exchanges in November 2017.

“As soon as Cricket Tasmania was made aware, it undertook an investigation that determined the interaction was consensual, private, occurred on the one occasion only, was between mature adults and was not repeated,” Gaggin said.

When Paine took the captaincy in 2018, he was perceived as a cleanskin in a tainted outfit.

He became the face of a campaign to win back trust, and to replace the laddish, hard-charging culture of Australian cricket with one of “elite honesty.”

Some eighteen months into his captaincy, he was hailed a national hero as Australia retained the Ashes in England for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Paine’s leadership lost some of its lustre as Australia succumbed to a depleted India 2-1 on home soil last summer. But the chance remained to redeem that loss against England in the Ashes.

He resigns after 23 Tests as captain, with 11 wins, eight losses and four draws.

Vice-captain Pat Cummins will be expected to take the captaincy, making him only the second specialist fast bowler in the role since Ray Lindwall led in one Test against India in the mid-1950s.

Paine’s place in the dressing room, however, remains on far shakier ground.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2021



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