Hailing from Hobart, Tasmania, Tim Paine was touted to become the next big thing behind the stumps for Australia after Adam Gilchrist and Brad Haddin. However, constant injuries meant that the talented keeper-batsman had to be side-lined despite performing well on numerous occasions in the domestic circuit. From a player who was struggling to find his place in the Aussie squad until 2016 to being named the captain two years after, the 36-year-old has had a roller coaster journey thus far but has not failed to leave his imprint in the Australian dressing room.
March 24, 2018, will be a date that most of the Australians would like to let go of. That day, television replays caught the opening batsman Cameron Bancroft illegally tampering with the ball. Furthermore, it was evident that the player was using sandpaper to alter the ball. When confronted by the umpires, Bancroft somehow managed to escape but only until the end of the day’s play.
25th March 2018: Former Australian skipper Steven Smith insisted on his intention to remain as the Australian skipper but ended up stepping down as the captain of the Australian Cricket team. Shortly after the debacle began to unfold, vice-captain David Warner announced that he would be stepping down as well.
However, something even greater happened that day. The hard-fighting Australians who seemed exactly opposite to what they stood for, got their new skipper. Yes, the choice was a surprise for everyone, including the new coach, Justin Langer.
Tim Paine took over the job of the skipper of the Australian Cricket Team on March 25th, 2018, and hasn’t looked back since.
The 36-year-old is the best gloves-man in the whole of Australia and in no way has he had an easy career. In fact, the actual Test career of Paine kicked off when he took over the reins of the team from Smith. Naturally, when a team is about to enter into a phase of a transition, the players and the coaching staff are well equipped to see it coming but unfortunately for Tim Paine and Justin Langer, it all came down as a bombshell and they had to hold the Australian fort for at least a year. The stalwarts of Australia – David Warner and Steve Smith – were banned for an entire year and their act of cheating made the Australian public lose faith in their heroes.
More than the performances on the field, the real challenge for Tim Paine was to restore the reputation of the Australian men’s team at the International stage.
Tim Paine and his impact on the Aussie changeroom
Tim Paine and Pat Cummins share quite a few similarities in the fact that constant injuries kept them out of the game for many years and in Paine’s case, it was his finger that bore the brunt of it, requiring multiple surgeries as well. He could have easily thrown in the towel and could have given up on his hopes for playing for Australia. He did not. He instead, decided to stay where he was and fight.
The typical Aussie style of playing the game requires you to stand up and keep delivering the blows even when your back is against the wall and is fair to say that Paine lived up to those expectations quite well.
The main highlight of the entire Sandpaper saga was not the fact that there was an act of cheating being committed by the Australians but about the environment in the dressing room and the “win at all costs” attitude. In a highly competitive series where everything seemed to go well for the lads from Down Under, it was a drastic measure taken by the leadership group to resort to unlawful means.
The Aussie skipper has been bearing the brunt of critics for his behaviour during the recent SCG Test match against India, where he did not hesitate to mock and unnecessary rile up the Indian batters at the crease. His behaviour, despite the apology that he issued, was unlike the aura that he had built, with may even deeming it classless.
But does one match define Tim Paine and his legacy?
Paine’s start to captaincy was by no means easy. In his first assignment, he had to lead an Australian squad in a tough limited-overs assignment in England and the Aussies faced a 5-0 drubbing. Soon after that, Paine and his men had to travel to the UAE to complete a tough Test series against Pakistan.
In the first Test, Paine’s leadership qualities and the ability to lead his team from the front came under the spotlight. Walking in at 252 for 5, Tim had to save the match for his team. There were more than 50 overs left in the final day’s play and Pakistan was expected to be the eventual winners by the end of the contest. Paine had other plans. A true fighter in every way, Paine battled his way through the demons in the Dubai pitch to a 194-ball 61*. This was perhaps the knock that won Paine the respect of his teammates.
It also signified something else. It signified the start of a new era for the Australian Test Team under a bold new captain.
Circumstances meant that Australia couldn’t afford to be bullish anymore on the field, not if they wanted to win back the public opinion. The 36-year-old grasped that almost immediately he took after the job.
For three years since the day Paine took over as the Test Captain, the Aussies have started to fight harder but their body language, one that was subjected to harsh criticism, changed drastically. There is banter and then there is abuse. The past Australian teams employed both as the teams back then were absolute powerhouses. The on-field chatter was more often than not backed by performances.
Paine lost his first home Test series against India by a slim margin of 1-2 in a closely fought series in 2018/19. It was India’s best chance of winning a series Down Under in over a decade. In the first Test, Australia was absolutely being bullied by a dominant Indian contingent and Virat Kohli was right up there with his chatter. Determined to restore the pride and image of the Australian Test team, there wasn’t much being given back to the touring party.
Border Gavaskar Trophy Second Test (2018/19)
There are two things that one rarely sees on the cricket field. The first is India is being dominated at home and the second is Australia being bullied at home. It was the case of the latter over here and out walked Paine on the first day of the Test match.
The conditions at the Optus Stadium were absolutely hostile. Behind the batsman, there was a pumped-up Virat Kohli standing and he would be facing a fired-up trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, and Ishant Sharma. In short, it was never going to get easy for the Australian captain.
Gauging the situation, the Aussie skipper quickly settled in but the chatter from the Indian skipper never stopped. Tim Paine stood up to a mighty Virat Kohli and that was when he won over the Australian masses. There was no abuse coming from the Australian captain and it was really good to see how the 36-year-old was extremely smart in handling that situation. That was perhaps the turning point in the match as the lads in the dressing room were beginning to believe that there was a way out of a situation when they had their backs cornered. You simply fight back.
Tim Paine the leader established the beginning of his reign at the Optus Stadium, Perth on December 18th, 2018.
Though Australia lost the series by 2-1, it was a massive turning point for a team undergoing transition.
To conclude the Australian summer, Australia absolutely battered a young Sri Lankan team to end their summer on a winning note.
It is often said that the personality of a leader is contagious and Paine’s influence in his dressing room pretty much proves it. In the last three years, we have seen the Australian Cricket Team hit new lows but never once did we see them give up. Not once did the Test team give up and not once did the ODI team give up. Aaron Finch was under Tim Paine for two-Test series and it is fair to say, he may have picked up a thing or two from his Test skipper.
This was perhaps, the hardest assignment for Tim Paine or at least it was going to be one. Australia was leading the series 1-0 by the end of the second Test and looked all set to clean up the Englishmen in the third Test but were stopped by a defiant Ben Stokes. Ben Stokes stitched a 76-run partnership with the tail-ender, Jack Leach to hand Australia a demoralizing loss, in their defence of 358, at Headingley.
England had the momentum then and was expected to win the following Test match as well. Good leaders know how to keep their team morale high but great leaders know how to confront their team after such a loss and that is what Tim Paine and Justin Langer did.
The fourth Test was won by Australia and the men from Down Under retained the Ashes on English shores.
Border Gavaskar Trophy, 2021/21
In the first Test against India in the ongoing series, Paine stroked his way to an exemplary and counter-attacking 99-ball 73*. It was an instrumental innings in every way and he was adjudged as the MOM and rightly so.
Yes, the third Test against India in which we saw “defiance of the highest quality” from the Indian batsmen was one of the worst that Paine had to endure in his short Test career and an even shorter one as a leader. It was a bad game for the Tasmanian as he dropped three crucial catches on day 5 and it sealed the fate of Australia for that Test match. To make matters worse, the pressure of the big game got to the usually calm 36-year-old as he engaged in a banter with Ravichandran Ashwin. In the heat of the moment, the Australian skipper blurted out the D-word which didn’t go down well with the masses, especially since he ended up dropping another catch soon after that.
We are all human. Tim Paine is human. Humans make mistakes and it was a mistake on the part of the Australian skipper. It takes courage to admit when you’re wrong and Paine is a bloke who has that in abundance. In a press conference after the game, the 36-year-old apologized for the way the Australian team carried itself on the final day of the test and took the brunt of the blame. One mistake surely cannot undo all the good things that Tim Paine has done since taking over the famed Australian Test Team.
“I want to apologise for the way I went about things, I’m someone who prides himself on the way he leads this team and yesterday was a poor reflection of that,” claimed Paine in an impromptu virtual press conference after the game, the following morning.
“My leadership wasn’t good enough, I let the pressure of the game get to me. Yesterday, I fell short of my expectations and my team’s standards.
“I’m human, I want to apologise for the mistakes I made yesterday … we’ve set really high standards over the last 18 months and yesterday was a bit of a blip on the radar,” Paine admitted.
Having dropped three catches on the final day of the third test, the Aussie skipper was quick to take the entire blame while taking nothing away from the Indian batsman. Some may call the act of calling for an impromptu press conference as dramatic but it was the need of the hour. After having spent more than two years on rebuilding the Australian Cricket Team’s reputation, for obvious reasons the skipper will not want everything to go down the drain, simply because of one let-up. Paine has done well to restore the image of Australia as a team that competes fiercely.
Players are humans too and at times, they’re allowed to make mistakes.
One slip up surely should not tarnish what has truly been a fine legacy.