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The crying game: when a boyhood dream is left in tatters

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19th November, 2021

It can be a crushing moment. The one where a player computes that having realised their, and almost every little boy’s dream of captaining Australia at cricket, it’s time to wake up and face the music.

With his tearful exit amidst a sexting scandal that he has clearly weighed on his family and mind for four years, Tim Paine became the latest leader to find his nerve fail him at the moment of truth.

Family is usually the trigger, although a sense of injustice can also turn on the waterworks, as it was for Kim Hughes.

For Steve Smith and now Paine, the moment they cracked was the moment the process of announcing was overcome by the process of remembering those who stood behind them on their journeys to the top.

Here’s how it all came crashing down for some of Australia’s leaders.

Kim Hughes – November 26, 1984


Out of form and fraying at the edges in the midst of back-to-back thumpings at the hands of a powerhouse West Indies team, Kim Hughes pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket after a day’s play at the Gabba and said “I have something to read”.

But he couldn’t finish his resignation statement, an emotional Hughes breaking down and inviting team manager Bob Merriman to read on his behalf.

Adjudged to have been “thrown to the wolves” by many, the beaten-down talent managed just two runs across his final four Test innings that followed.

Steve Smith – 29 March, 2018

Arriving back at Sydney Airport having copped a 12-month ban for his part in the South African ball-tampering scandal, Smith finally broke.

Flanked by his father Peter, the dethroned Australian captain struggled through a prepared statement where he admitted his failure of leadership and distress at the hurt caused to his family and the country’s young cricketers, in particular.

“I know I will regret this for the rest of my life. I’m absolutely gutted. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness,” he said.

Implicated batsman Cameron Bancroft expressed similar sentiments on return home, while days later banished vice-captain David Warner was in tears as he accepted responsibility for the incident. Coach Darren Lehmann also became a casualty, resigning at the tour’s end.


Tim Paine – 19 November, 2021

Parachuted in from the brink of retirement to fill the leadership void left in the wake of the sandpaper ball-tampering scandal, Tim Paine departed the role even more swiftly.

At an impromptu press conference he fought back tears – eventually they flowed – as he explained he would quit as captain after a 2017 sexting investigation became public.

Paine was initially cleared of fault when the incident, which occurred before his Test return, was investigated a year later.

“On reflection, my actions in 2017 do not meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain, or the wider community,” he said.

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“I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and pain that I have caused to my wife, my family, and to the other party.

“I’m sorry for any damage that this does to the reputation of our sport.”