Paine scandal fallout: CA left with reputational and cricketing questions to answer – ESPNcricinfo.com

Comment

There’s an inevitable distraction the fallout from the episode will create in the lead-up to and during the Gabba Test

Tim Paine took the Australian Test captaincy with the men’s team in the midst of a crisis and he leaves with them plunged back into another one.

Very rarely do captaincy tenures end in a good way – it’s not the nature of the job – but to lose consecutive Test leaders the way they have does not paint Cricket Australia in a good light.

The board and the executive, albeit one with very few survivors from 2018 when CA was shredded by the fallout of the Newlands scandal, have some important questions that need answering. The timeline revealed on Friday said that the complaint was made about Paine’s messages in June 2018. What has the current leadership of Cricket Australia, and the ones over the last three years, known of this issue while in charge?
In a previous era, the Australian Cricket Board, as it was then, was found out for having tried to keep a controversy under wraps with Mark Waugh and Shane Warne’s links to a bookmaker in the mid-1990s. The story eventually emerged midway through the 1998 Ashes series. As, so often, these things emerge.
By June 2018, Paine was already installed as the Test captain and at that moment was leading the side on a limited-overs tour of England. A few months later, following the publication of the culture review into Australian cricket, Paine was front and centre in acclaiming a “player pact” to usher in a new era for the team as they looked to rebuild their image.

At the beginning of this week, the game was basking in the glow of having won their first men’s T20 World Cup title. Now, and not for the first time in recent years, Cricket Australia has been left with both reputational and cricket questions to answer.

However, lurking in the files at Jolimont were the complaints and investigations into Paine’s messages. The outcome that Paine was found not to have breached the code of conduct and that the messages were between consenting adults was enough for the case to be put away and kept in-house. And when they have been hidden away for so long, the fallout is even greater.

We don’t yet know the full extent of conversations that were had regarding Paine’s captaincy credentials at the time, but clearly the outcome was that he was deemed suitable to continue. The fact he was cleared of any offence by the investigation does not necessarily equate to him still being a fitting captain. That this came at a time when Cricket Australia was pushing a new image for the men’s team so strongly makes it appear even more mismanaged. There will be a few who won’t be slow to jump on some of Paine’s utterances over the last few years in the wake of his departure.

Amid his tearful resignation, Paine said he was determined to remain a player for the Ashes series. It was a notion supported by the board. The Australia Cricketers’ Association, the players’ union, went a step further in a statement by saying they were “saddened that he felt the need to resign”.

But there has to be a question mark over whether he can realistically play in less than three weeks. On a basic fitness level, will he be able to focus on his return to action after disc surgery that was meant to involve a club and second XI game over the next week? And then there’s the inevitable distraction the fallout from the episode will create in the lead-up to and during the Gabba Test.

There’s a fundamental cricket argument as well. Without being captain, does Paine remain the best option to be the wicketkeeper-batter in the Test team? Some of the commentary around his batting returns have been over-egged – his average of 32.63 is comparable to that of Jos Buttler (33.33) and Jonny Bairstow (33.70) – but there is no shortage of high-quality alternatives in the game. Alex Carey would be leading the way, while Josh Inglis is also part of the Australia A squad and Queensland’s Jimmy Peirson is having a terrific season.

Right now, it’s hard to be certain that Paine hasn’t played his last game for Australia.

And then there’s the small matter of the captaincy. Pat Cummins is the leading candidate and now CA is likely to be forced to jump headlong into the decision of appointing him at least six months before it would have wanted to. There is still some talk of a return to Steven Smith – and what a circle that would complete if he was to return in these circumstances – but it won’t happen. He will, however, have a vital senior role to play alongside Cummins. A reminder, too, that while Cummins was appointed New South Wales’ one-day captain last season he has never led in a first-class match.

At the beginning of this week, the game was basking in the glow of having won their first men’s T20 World Cup title. Now, and not for the first time in recent years, Cricket Australia has been left with both reputational and cricket questions to answer.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Paine scandal fallout: CA left with reputational and cricketing questions to answer – ESPNcricinfo.com

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