Cricket Australia‘s culture has once again come under fire after it was revealed that Tim Paine was awarded the Test captaincy following his involvement in a sexting scandal that has since become public.
Paine announced his resignation, effective immediately, in a teary press conference on Friday, just weeks out from the first Test of the 2021-22 Ashes series after his lewd text messages with a former Cricket Tasmania staffer were leaked.
The timeline is complicated by the fact that Cricket Australia were not made aware of the Paine sexting complaint until later in 2018, several months after he was appointed captain.
However, at that point the question remains: why was he allowed to keep hold of the role at such a turbulent time following the ball-tampering scandal considering he was appointed largely due to his cleanskin reputation and the belief that he would be a suitable pick to overhaul the culture of the team.
Paine and coach Justin Langer were seen as the faces of a revamped and improved culture within Australia’s men’s team – a perception that has ensured Paine’s stint in the Test team has been relatively scrutiny free despite some form dips.
“The Cricket Australia handling of the Tim Paine scandal is quite something,” tweeted Jessica Halloran of The Australian.
“Why does Tim Paine get to play? Cricket Australia severely penalised two players for their involvement in #sandpapergate? Stood down. Financially punished. And now. A woman alleging she was sexually harassed by an Australian captain? Meh…”
“Cricket Australia really telling on themselves by letting Paine stick around for four years despite knowing all this, huh,” ABC’s Samantha Lewis added. “Gotta wonder how deeply embedded these cultural problems really are.”
“If Cricket Australia knew about this in 2018, why has Paine remained in such a position?” 3AW presenter Shane McInnes asked in a tweet.
“The stupidity of Tim Paine is the first story … the silence and inaction of Cricket Australia may well become the second.”
While Paine and Cricket Australia both suggested that the 36-year-old would remain in Australia’s Ashes squad, others doubted whether his position remains tenable.
Former Australian star Mark Waugh said it was time for the side to move on.
“He’s stood down from the captaincy, I’d say it’s going to be tough for him to hold his spot in the team now,” Waugh told 2GB.
“He’s 36 years of age, coming back from injury, he’s got this scandal hanging over his head. There’s a lot of things against Tim Paine now.”
Waugh was far from the only person to question whether Paine should retain his spot in Australia’s playing XI for the Ashes series.
“Tim Paine has done right thing in resigning but he is joking if he thinks he should still be part of the squad. His position is untenable,” ex-football writer Ray Gatt tweeted.
“Puts too much pressure on teammates, will be massive distraction, media will continually write, talk about it, fans will react at grounds.”
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With Paine’s days as the leader now over, Waugh said vice-captain Pat Cummins should be made the full-time Test skipper, while also advocating for Steve Smith‘s return to the leadership group as his deputy.
“He is definitely the front-runner,” Waugh said of Cummins’ credentials.
“There’s been a lot of talk of him taking over from Tim Paine sooner rather than later without this incident. I think he’s the logical choice.
“There’s not a lot of options when you look around Australian cricket. I’d definitely have [Smith] as vice-captain.
“I think he’s so well-respected and he’s a great player, you know he’s going to be in the team.
“It’s hard to have a fast bowler as captain because often they rotate. If Pat Cummins is the captain, he’s going to have to play all the Test matches, which is not going to be easy.
“Sometimes you pick a vice-captain that’s not going to be captain, but in this case, we’re going to need a vice-captain that with all possibility is going to have to captain during the summer, so you’re going to need someone with experience.
“I think Steve Smith would be fine. I can’t see why he wouldn’t be considered strongly as vice-captain and captain if Pat Cummins has to be rested during the summer.”