Just weeks out from the start of The Ashes, England has woken up with some level of glee upon discovering the disarray down under.
Sky Sports’ headline blared ‘Career in ashes’ after Tim Paine stepped down as Australian Test captain due to revelations of a sexting scandal.
Telegraph chief cricket writer Scyld Berry suggested England “may be privately pleased” with Paine’s exit, calling it “a grave and destabilising moment” for the Aussies.
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“It is ironic too. Paine was always seen as the safe pair of hands in every sense. Not only a sound wicketkeeper and batsman, but composed and sensible, and therefore the right man to take over from Steve Smith, when he too resigned tearfully, after Sandpaper-gate,” Berry wrote.
He referred to several ‘faux pas’ by Paine, such as his LBW review in the 2019 Headingley Test along with stump mic comments “which showed that Australia’s team had not cleared up their image as much as they wanted outsiders to believe”.
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“As he is nearly 37, and after this incident will attract all sorts of flak from the England players, not to mention from some of the Australian public, Paine could be replaced as keeper, whereupon an enormous weight is going to fall on Pat Cummins, his vice-captain,” Berry wrote.
“Paine could be replaced by Wade, a better batsman but lesser keeper, or Alex Carey, who has yet to make his Test debut.”
There were also plenty of questions surrounding Paine’s replacement as skipper.
The Evening Standard’s Will Macpherson wrote that while Steve Smith’s two-year sandpaper saga ban is over, making him eligible for the captaincy, “he was a weak leader who CA (Cricket Australia) may be reluctant to return to”.
The Telegraph argued “devoid of context, Smith would be a no-brainer to replace Paine: he is the first name on the Australia team sheet, one of the game’s all-time greats who regularly terrorises England and is well liked in the dressing room.
“The catch, of course, is his history … part of his punishment was that he was banned from captaining any side for two years so it would seem inconceivable that he could be deemed ready to take back the role so soon after one of the most traumatic episodes in Australian sporting history.”
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Pat Cummins is viewed as the most likely candidate to replace Paine, as the current vice-captain, but he would be Australia’s first fast bowler as Test captain since Ray Lindwall in 1956.
“Australia, historically, have rarely turned to bowlers as captain, and Cummins has a huge workload across three formats,” Macpherson wrote.
“He is, however, the best fit as a statesman.”
Berry agreed it would be a very difficult job for Cummins.
“Bob Willis, towards the end of his career, managed to captain England as a fast bowler and No 11, but Cummins’ job would be immensely onerous if he is not only Australia’s leading fast bowler, and captain, making all the decisions on the field and dealing with all the media requirements, as well as batting at No 8,” he wrote.
“England may be privately pleased by this latest development.”