Australian Cricket has been rocked once again in the space of 7 days. While it may be for their triumph in the T20 WC last Sunday, this time it was for all the wrong reasons as Tim Paine has stepped down from his role as captain. It has come as a shock to the cricketing world as it has come with less than three weeks to the Ashes.
Paine was appointed as captain in 2018 in the aftermath of the Newlands ball-tampering scandal. Steve Smith and David Warner were banned for 1 year while Cameron Bancroft was banned for 9 months. The then-coach Darren Lehmann resigned from his post and Justin Langer was brought in.
Australian Cricket was in desperate need of some cultural reforms as their 'win at all costs' mentality was the reason for their heinous act in Cape Town. The appointments of Paine and Langer signalled that Cricket Australia (CA) was striving for a culture change.
Justin Langer was the perfect appointment as head coach. His respect for the baggy green and his desire to improve Australian cricket is unmatched. He is very intense but not as aggressive as Darren Lehmann and these qualities made him an ideal choice.
Tim Paine on the other hand had a good guy image in the Australian team. So he was chosen as the successor to Steve Smith. He had been handed the task of winning the Australian fans over and restoring the image of Australian cricket.
His appointment has shown that CA had played it safe. Paine was appointed not necessarily for his tactical nous and his batting ability but for his image as a family man with no controversies. At least that is what they thought.
Paine's act happened in 2017 and an initial investigation was conducted in 2018. But CA cleared Paine because he didn't breach the code of conduct. Cricket Tasmania Chairman, Andrew Gaggin, said there was no complaint raised at the time of the incident in November 2017, nor when the employee's position with the organisation was terminated.
"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."
While issuing an assurance it "does not condone this type of behaviour", Cricket Tasmania said, "because of the consensual nature of the actions it was determined that no further action was required or appropriate".
The board should also take the blame in this situation for the handling of the investigation. CA tried to keep it confidential and thought they would get away with it. They had good reasons too for keeping their captain's slate clean.
Australian cricket went through the darkest phase in its history and CA didn't want another captain to leave in disgrace. Paine and Australia were doing well too in terms of on and off-field behaviour. So, they tried to cover it up and they managed to do it well for four years.
But this has blown up in their faces unexpectedly and are once again receiving massive criticism. For a board that has a motto of "elite honesty", this was shocking and a bit expected too.
Surely they would have been better off going public with the news. They weren't brave enough back then to face another scandal. Former Australian Test opener Ed Cowan said CA deserved to be scrutinised for how it managed the Paine incident. "It's a great lesson and reminder [that] there's no such thing as sweeping things under the carpet," he said. Full transparency is always the right outcome in every circumstance. I can't think of one where you're not better off dealing with it at the time."
Paine too didn't make it public until it was too late. This incident, though private, shouldn't have happened at the start of the Ashes in 2017. CA would feel they were backed into a corner by Paine, for not reporting the incident when he was given the captaincy. And why did he go public now, four years after the incident and that too before the start of an Ashes series? Did it take him four years to realize that the act he committed was wrong?
The fallout will continue till the Australian summer is over. Paine and CA have a lot of questions to answer. The high of winning the T20 WC has disappeared already and Australian cricket has another captain leaving in disgrace.