Tim Paine acts like a clown.
When I hear him speak, he reminds me of Cleaver Green, the protagonist of classic TV series Rake. It’s all spin and rhetoric, with little substance.
The loss at the Gabba is the most embarrassing result I have ever seen in my 40 years of following Test cricket – by any team, anywhere.
With everything on the line, a home Test series and a place in the ICC Championship final, Australia came up miles short.
After winning the toss and batting on an absolute road, almost every Australian batsman threw away his wicket against the most inexperienced bowling line-up we have ever faced, on a ground that we hadn’t lost at in over 30 years. Heads should roll and relieving Paine of the captaincy should be the first move.
Paine inherited the captaincy after the sandpaper debacle in South Africa in 2018. Asking a wicketkeeper to captain a Test team is sheer folly to begin with. Keeping wicket is the most taxing role in Test cricket – it requires unbelievable levels of skill and concentration and the ability to disrupt the concentration of the opposing batsmen with – preferably – light-hearted banter.
The captaincy should have been handed to the only remaining mainstay of the batting line-up, Usman Khawaja or to the only guaranteed mainstay of the team, Nathan Lyon.
But Paine was handed the reigns in Spain… err, no, wait… Dubai for a two-Test series against cricketing nomads Pakistan, and he started quite well. On the final day of the first Test, he battled away for 194 balls to save the match with a fine 61*. But we were well beaten in the second Test to lose the series 2-0. We took our medicine. A series loss Australian cricket had to have as part of our penance. But there was more pain to endure, a full summer of penance to come.
When the Indians won the Border-Gavaskar trophy in 2018-19, they became the first Indian side to win a series in Australia; not even the great Sachin Tendulkar had ever come close to experiencing such success on our shores.
For some reason, Paine was given a pass mark by the sporting media. His childish verbal stoushes with Virat Kohli were enjoyed and applauded, despite the fact they probably helped India to steel themselves for the contest against the ever-arrogant and unapologetic Australians.
Weren’t we supposed to have been humbled by the cheating saga?
Australia’s batting cost us that series and Paine was unable to rally the troops. I must admit, it is a lot to ask of a wicketkeeper. It is very hard to lead by example and have a meaningful captain’s knock when you bat number seven. Paine was handed a gift later that summer when an unrecognisable Sri Lanka barely turned up and was thumped 2-0.
So we took our summer medicine and on to redemption in the English summer of 2019, where Steve Smith returned from the phantom zone and scored about a million runs and Paine, despite his disastrous decision-making (that cost us the third Test), was able to raise the urn as we retained the Ashes 2-2. Thatr result bought this underperforming batsman and terrible tactician more time in the most-coveted position in Australian society.
Two more awful teams visited our shore in 2019-20 as we swept Pakistan 2-0 and a very disappointing New Zealand 3-0. This is the problem: there’s always an easy series around the corner to gloss over what should be unacceptable losses.
The PR job by Cricket Australia to sell Paine and Langer as our cricketing redeemers is laughable. They are both whingers that always have an excuse for underperforming.
The antics of Steve Smith and David Warner in South Africa in 2018 condemned Australian cricket to this sorry period of our history. Their actions should have been unforgivable. But no, they were somehow painted as victims and prodigal sons. They should never have worn the baggy green again. While it is hard not to have some sympathy for Smith, the fact is he was the captain, he knew there was something going on and chose to turn a blind eye to the stupid plan that Warner hatched that fateful day.
The current regime at Cricket Australia will eventually fall, and when it does, it will be well overdue.
It is not Paine’s fault that Australia has an inept captain. It’s Smith’s fault, it’s Langer’s fault and it’s Cricket Australia’s fault that we have lost two consecutive home Test series to India and our place in the inaugural final of the ICC Test Championship at Lords.
The rebuilding of Australian cricket should have continued without Smith and Warner and with Tim Paine as an obvious choice as vice-captain and quality wicketkeeper.
The captaincy was too much to ask of him in the long-term and the Australian cricketing family continue to pay the penance.