God knows I was willing to give Tim Paine a chance.
When he was made captain I had my doubts, but as a proud cricket fan I backed the skipper in spite of them.
I was willing to overlook the fact that he was the first wicketkeeper to be made full-time Australian Test captain since Jack Blackham, who was rubbish at it.
I was willing to overlook his mediocre batting record.
I was willing to overlook how he looked more like comedian John Mulaney than I was entirely comfortable with.
I was even willing to overlook that he applies himself to the task of DRS reviewing with all the analytical nous of a hysterical housewife on The Price Is Right.
But there are some things no fan can overlook. There are some sins a captain can never erase. There are some acts that, when carried out by a person in authority, must be met with no less than instant dismissal and a lifetime ban.
And when Paine announced to all the world that, even though it was still the second session on the second day of the second Test, he would declare his team’s innings closed – eliminating any chance whatsoever of David Warner surpassing Brian Lara’s world record score of 400 – he crossed that line.
Did Paine realise, as he raised his hand and waved his batsmen in, that for most cricketers, the opportunity to break a world record will never come at all, and that even for those happy few for whom it does, it will most likely only be a one-off?
Warner may never again be in a position to pass Lara, and yet his captain, the man in whom he is expected to invest a full measure of trust and loyalty, has sold him down the river. What a betrayal.
Oh sure, some will say, Australia won the game, so wasn’t Paine’s action justified? To them I would say, is a general justified in shooting his own men if it wins him the battle? And how would that even work?
In any case, Australia won the game on the fourth day – it’s not like they were pressed for time. Would an hour or two extra batting really have made a difference to the result? Just how inept did Paine assume his bowlers were?
But let’s say Warner had batted on to 401, Pakistan had only three and a bit days to bat instead of three and a half to save the game, and this somehow allowed them to hold on and secure a draw. Let’s say that’s a realistic hypothesis to entertain and in no way the fevered ramblings of a madman.
Well, so what? Fifty years from now, which would be the more memorable: a routine crushing of a mediocre opponent, or a draw in which an Australian batsman broke the world record for most runs in an innings? Which is the rarer achievement: a quadruple century or beating Pakistan?
Let’s face it, Paine had it within his gift to grant the entire country a piece of history, and he threw it away for nothing more substantial than hidebound adherence to an irrational myth about the Australian way of playing.
Apparently our national devotion to ‘aggressive cricket’ must now be taken to such extremes that breaking the nation’s heart is acceptable collateral damage.
Well I call shenanigans on that.
I have seen Australia belt Pakistan more times than I can remember, but only once have I seen an Australian batsman make the world record Test score. That was Matthew Hayden against Zimbabwe, and within a few months he’d been passed.
Before that, the last Aussie to hold the record was Don Bradman, and he had it for less than three years.
Here was a chance for another of our countrymen to stand atop the mountain, perhaps for decades. But we have a Test captain who cares so little for history that he would not allow even that chance.
The verdict is in. Tim Paine is a saboteur of Australian cricket’s legacy, and he must go now, for the good of the game.