With Tim Paine announcing his resignation from the Australian Test captaincy, cricket fans across the nation can gaze gratefully to the heavens and yell hallelujah!
The details of his texting exchange from 2017 that have brought about this decision are of no interest. Couldn’t care less what he may or may not have done. The specifics are inconsequential.
All that matters is that the worst captain Australia has ever had is now to be relegated to the history books. Thank God. Not a moment too soon. In fact, it’s many moments too late.
Remember, Paine only got the job because then-captain Steve Smith and vice captain David Warner were banned from the game for their role in a ball-tampering scandal.
Even then, his appointment made no sense. He was coming back from injury and hadn’t even been playing for Tasmania. Suddenly out of the blue, he was gifted not just a place in the Test team but the captaincy as well, neither of which he had even remotely earned or deserved.
Were we really so lacking in captaincy options we settled for an old, injured ‘keeper with no current form and no credentials to suggest he’d make a good Test captain? Apparently we were.
It soon became clear that he had been given his baggy green not only out of pure charity, but also as a PR exercise. The reputation of the Australian cricket team was in tatters and – to his credit – Paine was saying all the right things in front of the cameras.
But his inability to lead both tactically and by example quickly became apparent. His wicketkeeping was solid, but his batting was slow and unreliable. In the field, he was all at sea, failing to set effective fields and unwilling to look beyond the four specialist bowlers, leaving Australia with a bowling attack that was highly talented but overworked and with little variety.
This became most apparent during the last Ashes when an outright series win was denied by a fighting innings from England’s Ben Stokes. Stokes was, however, ably assisted by his opposing captain who allowed him to score at will through the same holes in the field for hour after hour. Stokes batted through to draw the series and Paine didn’t try anything out of the usual to stop him. He didn’t even move the field to try and slow the scoring. He stood behind the stumps and allowed an outright Test and series victory to slip away without a fight.
There was no Plan B with Tim Paine in the field. There was no creativity, no surprise moves in terms of bowling rotation or field placements.
Perhaps this lack of ingenuity was because Paine was too busy thinking of witty banter to say to opposing batsmen. Instead of being a captain, he wanted to be a comedian, wasting energy on riffing with the opponent instead of analysing the state of the game and planning accordingly.
But hey, the media and social media loved the sound bites. The “ugly Australians” were gone, replaced by a joker of a captain who’s win/loss record quickly proved that nice guys finish last.
Despite the batting heroics of the likes of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne and tireless performances from the bowlers, the wins remained sporadic. The batting lineup overall was often inconsistent and prone to collapse, but when they did fire their efforts were often undone by Paine.
His inability to seize victories from positions of dominance was testament to how bad his captaincy was overall. And in the last series against India, the so-called great sportsman became a petty sledger, losing his cool and getting into ugly confrontations with the Indian players.
Remember, that same Indian side was ravaged by injuries and still won the series. Without undermining their outstanding efforts, it’s hard to feel like their success was partly due to their mental control over Paine. He was suckered in by their banter and lost both his cool and control.
By the end of the series, his wicketkeeping had also deteriorated and he seemed like a petulant sore loser. As someone who grew up watching great leaders like Steve Waugh and Allan Border, the behaviour of Paine was embarrassing.
The one thing he had actually been good at – being the positive, sporting face of a new-look Australian team – was gone. If there was anything justifying his place in the side it was the PR side and he was now failing at that front.
So we come to today’s announcement and we breathe a sigh of relief that Captain Useless is no more. It’s a great day for Australian cricket.
Many wonder who will replace him. Can a fast bowler like Cummins handle the job? Should Smith be reinstated despite his previous indiscretions? Marnus? Nathan Lyon?
Cummins would probably be an excellent captain, perhaps with an experienced head like Smith at vice captain.
But if Paine’s appointment has taught us anything is that anyone can be captain. They won’t necessarily be good, but if we were willing to gift the leadership to someone so undeserving then there’s not a single player in the country who can’t be at least an outside chance.
Let’s be honest, it would actually be hard to do a worse job.
What is most important now is that we look to the future. With Paine relinquishing the leadership there is no reason for him to still be in the team. He has played no lead up games due to injury and is on the wrong side of 35.
Now is the time to blood a younger, long-term replacement glove man. There are options, with the likes of Carey, Inglis and Phillipe all worthy of consideration.
With a new captain and a younger wicketkeeper (bound to also be a better batsman) then Australia will be a much stronger side.
Bring on the Ashes. As an Australian I’m confident, because our biggest excuse for losing is gone.