Tim Paine might be on his last legs as Australia’s captain. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that the manner in which he took on the captaincy is now how he intends to finish his tenure.

It has become worse than Tim Paine asking about Rishabh Pant’s baby-sitting skills on the last tour and Pant referring to Paine as Australia’s temporary captain. The only thing worse than accusing the opposition of cheating to secure an advantage is to use that as a reason for why the current Australian captain fell from grace, not only for his waning captaincy tactics but also, and more particularly for his behaviour at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Certain sections of Australia’s sports media are floating the idea that not only was nothing on board as far as India were concerned but also, that Tim Paine was forced into apologizing for his deteriorating behaviour, particularly against Ravichandran Ashwin when in fact, Cricket Australia have owned an opportunity.

They further continue to claim that the reason for Paine’s over the top sledging and tactics were a result of his frustration over India’s blatant use of substituting wicketkeeper for wicketkeeper as is mandated by the concussion rule. The focus is now on how India used Pant’s injury to their advantage to compensate in a way that would allow them to use Pant’s batting but also, utilize Wriddhiman Saha’s better wicketkeeping skills. With the Australian captain unable to pursue that allegation, it led to his disappointing tactics on the field. That is the claim.

There is little doubt that Paine inherited the captaincy under great duress when the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner brought disrepute to the game by cheating trying to tamper the ball. Australia’s fortunes were nothing to write home at that point and although their curve seemed to take a turn for the better, back-to-back Test series at home have brought into the open the contention that Paine was always a stop-gap captain until Australia could find a more formidable cricketer to occupy the role. With Smith also not entirely making a credible claim to regain the captaincy, the nails are already being hammered into Paine’s cricket career while Australia contemplate whether to promote the currently non-playing vice-captain in Travis Head or reward responsibility for Marnus Labuschagne, who outside of Smith, has looked like the only batsman likely to challenge the opposition.

What does matter is not only that team India as a whole has been brought under the scanner by the sore losers that are Australians at the present moment but also, that Paine’s last resort to defend his captaincy is to have certain sympathetic media outlets bat for him by suggesting he was provoked into the behaviour by underhand tactics.

It is bad enough that Rishabh Pant’s laudable performances continue to be diluted by the controversy and the sheen being taken off India’s win by certain Australian media outlets and former cricketers. If this is the case being made and this is how Paine defends his captaincy ahead of the tour of South Africa, both, Paine and Australia, will definitely have hit a new low.

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