I was at a sports lunch when news of Tim Paine’s resignation filtered through.
The MC brought the room to order with a booming, ‘Breaking news, ladies and gentlemen, breaking news…’
When he announced, ‘Australian cricket captain Tim Paine has just resigned over a sex scandal’, the reaction was one of disbelief.
A communal, ‘Whaaaaaa …?’ bounced off the walls.
‘Is this a joke?’ someone called out.
Well, yes and no.
Paine (pictured with wife Bonnie) said his decision to stand down as skipper was ‘incredibly difficult’ – but was the ‘right one for me, my family and cricket’
Tim Paine stepped down as Australia’s Test cricket captain amid a shock sexting scandal that saw him send a lewd photo and explicit messages to a female staffer
The newsflash was no laughing matter, but the fact that Cricket Australia has just lost its second consecutive national team captain due to knucklehead misbehaviour could very much be filed in the sick joke category.
Almost exactly two years ago I wrote a newspaper column which was fulsome in its praise of Australia’s Test captain.
A captain who had been thrown the reins of the highest-profile job in Australian sport at a time of unrivalled crisis.
With previous skipper Steve Smith and his vice-captain David Warner sacked for the infamous ‘Sandpapergate’ debacle, and the country’s once-proud Test side an object of shame and ridicule, Australia needed someone special to lead us out of the darkness.
Someone with an unblemished record on and off the field; a man of rare quality and character whose reputation was beyond reproach.
Tim Paine, I wrote in my column, was that man. Captain Cleanskin.
Boy, was I ever fooled.
Standing by her man: The loyal wife of Australian Test cricket captain Tim Paine (pictured with wife Bonnie) has stood by him for the past three years, despite knowing he sent lewd texts to a female staffer
Forgive and forget: Bonnie Paine was aware of her husband’s indiscretion back in 2018 when he was investigated by Cricket Australia and eventually cleared of misconduct
Still, at least I can take some solace in the fact that I wasn’t alone. The stunned reaction following the MC’s announcement at the function I was attending on Friday was no doubt mirrored in other rooms around the country, and even around the world.
And why not?
Tim Paine, apparently happily married father of two, sexting with an employee of Cricket Tasmania, sending her explicit photos and messages just hours before taking the field for an Ashes Test back in 2017?
It seemed almost too bizarre to be true, yet it was true – and not only that, Cricket Australia knew it was true soon after handing Paine the captaincy, and yet they still deemed him the best man for the job.
As he said in his resignation statement: ‘Nearly four years ago I was involved in a text exchange with a then colleague. At the time, the exchange was the subject of a thorough CA integrity unit investigation … That investigation and a Cricket Tasmania HR investigation at the same time, found there had been no breach of the CA code of conduct.’
Batsman Travis Head (pictured left) was blindsided when he was told by journalists that Tim Paine was stepping aside as Test skipper when conducting his own press conference in Adelaide on Friday
Cricket Australia chairman Richard Freudenstein said that ‘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’ to quit the captaincy.
But Cricket Australia has since refuted the timeline inferred by Paine’s statement, saying they weren’t aware of the sexting until after he was appointed captain – although Paine certainly was when he accepted the job.
Which, to my mind, raises two pertinent questions. One: just what does the CA code of conduct consider inappropriate? And two, how dumb are the people running the game in this country?
Surely if they’ve been around long enough to get to the top of a major sporting organisation, they should be aware that keeping a scandal like this away from the media was about as likely as Cameron Bancroft getting away with hiding that piece of sandpaper down his pants.
Australia’s Pat Cummins (pictured) is tipped to best the next Test captain
Steve Smith cried when the ‘Sandpapergate’ ball-tampering scandal forced him to step down as Test captain in 2018 – paving the way for Paine to take the top job
Wouldn’t you think, when the under-siege CA executive board were discussing whether to make Paine’s indiscretion public or try to keep it under wraps, someone would have put down their glass of scotch, wiped their moustache and offered a few words of reason?
‘Pardon me chaps, but much as I like Painey, splendid fellow and all that, should we really be leaving the second-highest job in the country behind the PM in the hands of someone who sends happy snaps of his old fella to one of the office girls just before he’s supposed to pad up to face the old enemy?’
Obviously not – and now they have to suffer the consequences. As do we.
In just a few short weeks Australia, still on a high after an unlikely win in the T-20 World Cup, will face England in a home Ashes series, the greatest contest in the game.
And they will have to do it with a new captain and, you would think, a new wicketkeeper, because although Paine has said he is still available for the upcoming series, surely not even CA would be silly enough to pick him.
Paine was brought in as the white knight of Australian cricket after captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were suspended, along with opener Cameron Bancroft in 2018 after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa
Tim Paine has issued a public and emotional apology to his wife of five years for the ‘hurt and pain’ he caused her when he sent lewd messages to a female colleague
Besides, perhaps Paine should be worrying a little less about playing cricket and more about mending some fences on the home front over the next few months.
Which, given his heroics with the bat in the World Cup, will probably see Matthew Wade called into the Test side.
As for who will lead the team, at the lunch I attended, the big question was whether the now-disgraced Paine would be replaced as captain by the now no-longer disgraced Steve Smith.
Personally, if I was a betting man, I’d have my money on Pat Cummins. He may be a bowler, but he is talented, articulate and, as far we know, hasn’t blotted his copybook.
Either way, let’s hope they get it right this time around. The last two Australian cricket captains have exited the job while blubbering into a sea of TV cameras.
I’d hate to see the next one end in tears.
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