Tim Paine has quit after being investigated by Cricket Australia for sending explicit text messages to a female co-worker four years ago. AFP / Reuters
Paine sobbed as he quit one of the most high-profile roles in world cricket and Australian public life. Paine said at the media conference that he thought the matter had been dealt with several years ago.
"Nearly four years ago, I was involved in a text exchange with a then-colleague," Paine, now 36, said, referring to a series of allegedly sexually graphic exchanges with a female co-worker that are only now becoming public.
"I recently became aware that this private text exchange was going to become public. On reflection, my actions in 2017 do not meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain, or the wider community," he said.
"I spoke to my wife and family at the time and am enormously grateful for their forgiveness and support. I'm sorry for any damage that this does to the reputation of our sport," Paine said. "We thought this incident was behind us and that I could focus entirely on the team, as I have done for the last three or four years.
"However, I recently became aware that this private text exchange was going to become public.” Paine said he didn't want the scandal to become "an unwelcome disruption to the team ahead of what is a huge Ashes series."
Paine's departure leaves Australia without a captain who, since being appointed in 2018, won praise for reforming the team's culture. Saying he was relinquishing a role that he "loved" and described as the "greatest privilege" of his life, Paine insisted he still plans to play in the upcoming series against England.
"I will remain a committed member of the Australian cricket team and look forward with anticipation to what is a huge Ashes tour," he said.
Board accepts resignation
Cricket Australia said it had accepted Paine's resignation, and the board would "now work through a process... of identifying and appointing a new captain."
Cricket Australia "does not condone this type of language or behaviour. Despite the mistake he made, Tim has been an exceptional leader since his appointment and the Board thanks him for his distinguished service," it added.
But in reality his future in the series — and international test cricket — is now in serious doubt.
The Tasmanian batsman-wicketkeeper took over the Test captaincy in March 2018 in the wake of the "Sandpaper-gate" scandal that rocked Australian cricket.
Once in the post, Paine became the face of a campaign to win back trust, and to replace the laddish, hard-charging culture of Australian cricket with one of "elite honesty."
It has now emerged that Australia's cricket authorities had investigated the sexting allegations at the time and kept Paine as captain regardless.
Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper published alleged text message exchanges between Paine and the woman, and said she had complained that he had sent an unsolicited picture of his genitals.
"Will you want to taste my .... ?? F…k me, I’m seriously hard," the paper quoted Paine as saying in a text. Cricket authorities rallied around Paine, revealing that the woman complained to them only after she was charged with theft in the wake of resigning from her job.
Paine's "interaction" with the woman was "consensual, private, occurred on the one occasion only ... and was not repeated," Cricket Tasmania said.
However, his exoneration in the earlier probe, and Cricket Tasmania's characterisation of the matter as "between mature adults," may not be enough to save him.
The investigation lay buried for nearly four years and may have stayed that way indefinitely, had the Herald Sun not reported the sordid details immediately before his mea culpa.
"We thought this incident was behind us and that I could focus entirely on the team, as I have done for the last three or four years," said Paine, who was married to wife Bonnie in 2016.
"However, I recently became aware that this private text exchange was going to become public."
Paine said he was still available for selection but cricket pundits could not see how he could remain in the team, with his presence likely to be a huge distraction before and during the Ashes.
Local cricket fans spoke of the traditional adage, that the captaincy of the Test team is the country's "second highest office" after the Prime Minister. "The man's in a marriage with children, he's the captain of the Australian cricket team," Sydney resident Craig Jarman told Reuters. "I mean it's just appalling, appalling what he's been doing and what's been happening."
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