Tim Paine sat in the verandah of his bungalow sipping evening tea, zipped up his cozy, new sweater neck high to avoid the cool winter breeze and enjoyed the view around.
The phone rings and it’s Trevor Hohns on the line. “Tim, you are in for the Ashes. Get the bloody bag packing.”
“What???” Paine couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His baggy green had long been an attraction in the living hall behind glass panes but he hadn’t, in his wildest dreams, thought he would need it again. “I’ll be there, Trevor,” Paine says in a shaky voice and cuts the call.
The aforementioned conversation and scenario are of course imaginary but it could well have been what unfolded last December when Tim Paine was surprisingly selected over some bigger names doing the rounds.
Fast forward to March and he is facing a press conference as the skipper of the national team with his baggy green still spotting a speckle of dust from the cobwebs.
“It’s strange. Not the circumstances that anyone would like to be sitting here,” Paine said. “A really bizarre, strange, horrible 24 hours. We had a quick chat as we do as a team every morning and Steve and Dave both announced that they were stepping down and then I was told by the chairman of selectors (Trevor Hohns) that I would be captain for the day.”
Humiliated after a scandalous ball tampering incident Steven Smith and David Warner, the leaders of the “leadership group” were asked to unceremoniously step down as Paine took over the reins and painfully watched as his team succumbed to an embarrassing 322 run loss at Newlands.
The inevitable humiliation on social media has reached insane levels as Cricket Australia apparently can go to the extent of imposing life bans on Steven Smith and David Warner.
Take a moment to grasp the absurdity of the whole rumour. There are tainted players who chose to make money by letting their team downplaying cricket now and a skipper and his companion, wrong in every way to plan to cheat but still to eke out an advantage to win (not to lose), could likely be banned for life.
“The ASC condemns cheating of any form in sport. The ASC expects and requires that Australian teams and athletes demonstrate unimpeachable integrity in representing our country. The Australian cricket team are iconic representatives of our country. The example they set matters a great deal to Australia and to the thousands of young Australians playing or enjoying the sport of cricket and who look up to the national team as role models” the ASC statement read thus.
“Given the admission by Australian captain Steve Smith, the ASC calls for him to be stood down immediately by Cricket Australia, along with any other members of the team leadership group or coaching staff who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan to tamper with the ball. This can occur while Cricket Australia completes a full investigation.”
The Rule 42 of Laws of cricket is all about the spirit of the game for any conduct that comes under unfair play the maximum penalty available is a life ban from the sport.
While theoretically, it’s plausible, would Cricket Australia go to the extent of banning their skipper and vice-captain for life? That would be insane for ball tampering isn’t an offence as big as match-fixing. Yet, for setting a wrong example and for coaxing a younger member of the team, Smith should probably be sacked from captaincy on a permanent basis.
This brings us to the fundamental question – where to for Australia now?
They are distraught, energy levels were unbelievably low at Newlands on day 4 and the whole team seemed to be in mourning. Smith and Warner will, in all likelihood, be unavailable for the next series at least and their coach, despite Smith’s claims, could be ousted after the investigation.
But personnel aside, Australia, as a top tier Test nation with a large fan following, have quite a few questions to answer.
“Something we can try to control is how we are seen going forward by our Australian public and become the team that we want to become and they want us to be seen as. So that’s an opportunity going forward. I don’t think we all would have expected this to be as big as it has been and particularly the fallout that we have seen from back home, I think the reality and enormity of it has sunk in,” Paine said in the aftermath of the gargantuan loss.
His statements go a long way in understanding Australia’s current predicament. What’s done is done. To restore the faith of their fans and the public, Australia must use the opportunity to change themselves and their approach to the game.
From the Monkeygate incident to Lehmann’s call for making Broad cry in 2013 to Smith’s DRS-saga in Bangalore to Lehmann’s jibe at “disgraceful” Newlands crowd, Australia have whined at the slightest taunts against them without really questioning their own style of playing.
The one-minute 45-second footage at Newlands shows second by second how the Australians, as a group, cheated. “There is a line you don’t cross,” they said but seems unaware of the imaginary line themselves for they have not just merely crossed it but trampled upon it. The sheer hypocrisy and holier-than-thou attitude they displayed deserves the flak they are coping now.
If this does not change Australia’s ways nothing else might. They seem to have grasped the enormity of the situation now. If this sparks a turnaround and make them really “reverend”, they might be able to earn some respect years down the lane. For now, though, the first and foremost step is to restore the faith of the public and that cannot happen until the “leadership group” is dismantled. You dished it out. Now cope with the backlashes. Ride the storm.