Tim Paine knew texting scandal that cost him Test captaincy would eventually emerge

The Guardian
The Guardian
Tim Paine Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

Tim Paine says he always knew the texting scandal that cost him the Australian Test captaincy would eventually be made public, revealing media had approached him about it “numerous times” over the past three years.

His comments come as former Cricket Australia board members on Sunday criticised the current administration over its handling of the saga, with then-chairman David Peever accusing it of “abandoning” Payne via a “knee-jerk reaction” and former director Mark Taylor defending the decision to keep the investigation “in house”.

Paine sent Australia’s Ashes preparations into chaos on Friday afternoon when, less than three weeks before the start of the series against England, he stood down over explicit text messages and a graphic image sent to a female former Cricket Tasmania employee in 2017.

At the press conference in Hobart, the 36-year-old said he “deeply regretted” his actions and, although an integrity unit investigation in 2018 cleared him of any breach of Cricket Australia’s code of conduct, he had become aware the private exchange was about to be released.

Related: Cricket Australia admits Tim Paine scandal should have ended captaincy in 2018

Two days later, in an extensive and personal interview alongside his wife Bonnie for News Corp , Paine said he “absolutely” believed the controversy was a ticking time bomb, based on previous attempts to have it published.

“I thought the issue was dealt with, but it always popped up around a big series, or at the start of the cricket season,” Paine said on Sunday.

“Over the last three years, there have been numerous times where media agencies have put to us that they had evidence, yet they never chose to write it. As to why, I’m not sure, but nobody else had chosen to write the story, but I knew it was going to come out at some point, as much as I didn’t want it to.”

Paine remains adamant the texts were fully consensual and said they did not make him reluctant to take up the Test captaincy in March 2018. He says he was not aware they were an issue until May 2018, when then-Cricket Tasmania chief executive Nick Cummins rang to ask him about them.

“Because it was a consensual exchange of messages months beforehand, I didn’t think it was anything to consider,” Paine said. “I never thought for a moment that it would become an issue. I was just excited and honoured to be asked.”

Paine’s admissions pose further questions about why CA management did not further scrutinise the investigation given it occurred only a couple of months after appointing him to replace Steve Smith in the fallout of the ball-tampering scandal during Australia’s infamous South Africa tour.

On Saturday CA chairman Richard Freudenstein and chief executive Nick Hockley blamed previous administrators for allowing Paine to remain as skipper, and said he should have been stood down when he was first investigated.

“I can’t talk about the 2018 decision, I wasn’t there,” Freudenstein said. “But I am saying, based on the facts as they are, today the board of Cricket Australia would not have made that decision.

“I acknowledge the decision clearly sent the wrong message that this behaviour is acceptable and without serious consequences. The role of Australian cricket captain must be held to the highest standards.”

But Peever on Sunday attacked CA for trying to claim the moral high ground, describing Paine as “an incredible servant of the game” and accusing the governing body of trying to “make up your own rules as you go”.

“Cricket Australia’s decision seems knee jerk and unfortunately shows double standards. The issue has been doing the rounds in cricket circles for some years now,” Peever said in a statement to News Corp. “The current chairman has been on the board for two years and it is implausible he didn’t know about it. If he and his board felt so strongly about it, why wait until now to act?”

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Freudenstein said he considered the case closed when he joined CA’s board in 2019 in his explanation as to why action on Paine’s behaviour was not taken earlier, adding that background checks would be conducted on potential captaincy successors, with pace-bowling spearhead and vice-captain Pat Cummins favoured to take on the role and Smith a possible alternative.

Taylor, who was a member of the CA board for 13 years before resigning in late 2018 as one of the final casualties of the ball-tampering saga, agreed Paine’s call to stand down but defended the decision not to make the investigation public in 2018.

“A decision was taken by the integrity unit and supported by the board to keep this in house,” Taylor told the Nine Network. “There’s obviously been a lot of conjecture about the rights and wrongs of that. That decision was made not just on what is best for cricket, but what was best for Tim Paine, Bonnie Paine and also the woman involved.”

Paine, a wicket-keeper batsman who resurrected his Test career against England in late 2017, remains available for Ashes selection and on Sunday indicated his desire to end his Test career on the “ultimate high” of an Australian series defence at home.

He said national team coach Justin Langer had encouraged him to continue as captain, but reiterated he felt a responsibility to stand down.

“JL told me he’s devastated,” he said. “He was pretty firm that he wanted me to continue as captain, and again, once I explained to him the reasons that I thought resigning was the best thing to do, he was with me all the way.

“I’ve got messages from all my teammates saying they’ve got my back, and that we all make mistakes, and we move on.”

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