The behaviour by the Australians on and off the field goes beyond merely an apology. Tim Paine will have a lot to answer for than just apologize to Ravichandran Ashwin because some promises have been broken.
In the dark days following the humiliating ball-tampering scandal of the Cape Town Test in 2018, Tim Paine took over the captaincy from Steve Smith, who along with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, was subjected to serve time bans from the game. In that light, under Justin Langer’s coaching and Paine’s leadership, it was reiterated that Australia would deviate from their past bullying ways and underhand sledging in the name of mental disintegration to play the game hard but fair.
Many, including those in Australia’s cricket fraternity, slammed Australia in the early days, not only for their lowly performances but also, for their subdued personas on the field. However, Paine maintained that this was a new Australia that would focus on keeping the game clean.
Paine’s idea seemed almost par for the course as a clearly undercooked Australia tried to rebuild, the chinks in their armour in terms of their bench strength, becoming more and more evident. It was hard paces, doing the hard yards and Australia could not afford the attention that would come their way had their indulged in their bully, dominant behaviour – their dubious reputation that went hand in hand at a time when they were ruling the roost.
To be fair to Paine, Australia needed a facelift, albeit a cosmetic one, given how low they had fallen, caught red-handed on camera and their captain forced to make an admission in the course of that Test in South Africa that Australia had a cohesive plan, while only naming a few players, to use the cheating aspect of ball-tampering to try and undermine South Africa’s efforts.
That this was the first-team admission and coming from Australia who did not always practice what they preached but read other teams the riot act, this was Australia’s disgrace of the worst kind, Smith, right in the heart of it.
Now it seems both, Smith and Paine, have dug themselves a hole, Smith with his boot and Paine with his mouth. Paine dropped as many as three catches in the course of India’s innings that defied Australia’s surge. Perhaps Paine could have better focused on his own skills rather than lend themselves to an unsavoury rant targeted at Ravichandran Ashwin.
To suggest an apology would condone the despicable behaviour on the field and to explain away Smith’s tactics against Pant as just one of his “quirks”, Paine might indeed be looking at the end of his career as Australia’s captain, unless Australia make a quick change to their behaviour ahead of the upcoming fourth Test. Trying to wipe the slate clean by dismissing such tactics which revealed Australia’s fragility under pressure might just be an invitation to another incident not unlike in South Africa where David Warner was said to be deteriorating as the tour went on.