Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Tim Paine & Cricket Australia, who let who down?. Was it Tim Paine who failed Australian cricket or was it the image or the illusion of Paine that Cricket Australia had created that failed them?
Was it Tim Paine who failed Australian cricket or was it the image or the illusion of Paine that Cricket Australia had created that failed them?
Imagine for a moment that Tim Paine had not been oversold as this infallible reformer for over three years. Good captain, yes. Very able wicket-keeper, definitely. An inspirational leader, for sure. Maybe even a witty ribber from behind the stumps. Or simply someone enjoying a second shot at what he seemed destined to do before becoming the right man for the right job during a major crisis.
But not as this Mr Perfect with no possible blemish, before or after he was handed the role, like Cricket Australia repeatedly heralded Paine to be. Not to forget made everyone believe ad nauseum.
You'd expect the aftermath of his shock resignation as captain on Friday (November 19) still to have been damning, considering the circumstances. It would still have been untenable for the 36-year-old to continue in his position. He would still have had to render a public apology and not be able to get away with a press release. It would still have been a humiliating exit.
But you'd think the immediate reactions from all quarters would have carried more a sense of extreme disappointment rather than brazen betrayal when the story broke out earlier in the day. More “how could he” rather than the “how dare he” nature of the sentiments that engulfed the country, and even the cricket world at large.
So then you wonder, was it Tim Paine who failed Australian cricket or was it the image or the illusion of Paine that Cricket Australia had created that failed them? The level of outrage that followed the distasteful newsbreak around Australia was a glimpse into this feeling of being made to live a lie for this long. Like they'd been cheated out of their trust in the national team.
It would be unfair to say that Paine is solely responsible for that. To start with, it was another reminder that sending a picture of your genitalia to someone is never a great idea keeping in mind your own future. For, in that moment of what some might call, loose control, you actually end up losing control. And based on the latest reports in the Herald Sun, it's clear that Paine realised it the moment he allegedly sent the now infamous “d**k pic” to his co-worker at Cricket Tasmania back in November 2017.
Like is generally the case in these situations, his “so f**ked” comment that was released in the Herald Sun is an indicator of the reality of the moment sinking in. That there was no coming back or any way of undoing it. Just the hope that it never comes out or is made public, especially when you're held up to be a role model like Paine was even before he was made captain.
In many ways, that's what Cricket Australia seemed to bank on too once they learnt about the complaints from the woman over Paine's alleged transgressions. They hoped that it would never come out. Despite having reportedly conducted an investigation, and subsequently cleared him of any wrongdoing, at least in terms of breaching their own code of conduct. Like with most issues of this nature, the longer you keep them under wraps, the more sinister they end up looking once they do get inevitably exposed.
Of course, this disconcerting news couldn't have reached CA at a worse time, when it did in mid-2018. There they were just trying to clean up and get the house in order in the wake of one of the most embarrassing scandals in Australian cricket history. And then comes this unsavoury news about the man they've anointed to be the saviour, one with these saintly characteristics.
It was an image that they'd created to make up for their own fallibilities at that stage. The scenes during the Cape Town Test hadn't just embarrassed Australian cricket, it had also led to the exposure of some hard truths about their culture across the board. To his credit, Paine did quite the exemplary job on and off the field, to uphold those very virtues that he was expected to inject and propagate. But he also did it while displaying a very human side to his personality. He didn't hold back, for one, when it came to showing his frustration or annoyance when things didn't go his team's way on the field. That he did so with the knowledge that it could all get “so f#*ked” hanging over his head, says a lot.
He also never came out and spoke of himself as being faultless or playing up to the aura built around him. Most times, he was unapologetically honest about himself or his team's discrepancies. You always knew though that he did have to toe the line that CA had drawn for him. You saw it last summer when he felt it necessary to call for a press conference to apologise for calling senior Indian spinner R Ashwin a “d**khead”, an expression that you hear once every 3-4 minutes around Australia.
Following the sexting reports on Friday, some have picked on him for having spoken about wanting to create an environment that produces better people and not just better cricketers. But he had to say that. It fit in with the gimmick that he'd been labelled with, and also the role that he'd been assigned. It can also still be true even – or perhaps especially – if it is coming from someone with their own faults.
If it might have felt ludicrous at that point, maybe CA could have contemplated at least mentioning the investigation to the outside world. It's something the current top-brass certainly agree on. More so when you consider that Paine cooperated in the inquiry and the findings cleared him. Even if they would have encountered some opposition with regards to their verdict, it would at least have shown the level of transparency that CA incessantly spoke about bringing to the fore. By laying it out there, they could also have done right by all the concerned parties, including Paine and certainly Australian cricket as a whole.
Without getting into the legalities of the case here, or whether the exchange between Paine and the woman was consensual, CA might even have been lauded for not making light of any matter anymore. Instead, they let it rest and simmer underneath the surface, while continuing to present this picture of a new virtuous wave surrounding Australian cricket. As current CEO, Nick Hockley, and chair, Richard Freudenstein, revealed on Saturday, they were merely informed about the investigation upon their arrival on the scene, without being presented with any details. It was only going to be a matter of time before it would return to haunt them.
Friday will go down as a day of reckoning for cricket. It was a day when we witnessed a slew of apologies from cricketers from different parts of the world for a variety of indiscretions, headlined of course by the outgoing Australian Test captain. It was another stark reminder that cricket is indeed an imperfect sport played by imperfect men (in particular) who are as prone to being fallible as anyone.
It was a lesson that Paine will never forget or be allowed to forget. It should also be a lesson for sporting bodies who are attempting to reform. The lesson is that real change does not happen by identifying a front-man and creating a superhero image around him. The public might believe in it for a while, but sooner or later that figure's fallibility will be revealed and you'll have little choice but to hang him out to dry. When that happens, the veneer of respectability is removed and all that's left is the organisation's own inner culture, exposed for all to see.