Tim Paine steps down from Australia Test captaincy. What is next?

Tim Paine abruptly quit as Australian Test cricket captain Friday over an explicit “private text exchange” with a female colleague — a bombshell announcement just weeks before the Ashes series begins against arch-rivals England.

“Today, I’m announcing my decision to stand down as the captain of the Australian men’s Test team,” said an emotional Paine, failing to hold back tears as he recounted a years-old scandal which is only now coming to light.

“Nearly four years ago, I was involved in a text exchange with a then-colleague,” Paine, 36, said, referring to what Australian media reported to be a series of sexually graphic exchanges with a female co-worker.

“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’m deeply sorry for the hurt and pain that I have caused to my wife, my family, and to the other party. I’m sorry for any damage that this does to the reputation of our sport.”

While Paine said he would be stepping down from a role that was the “greatest privilege” of his life, he 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.

The Tasmanian batsman-wicketkeeper took over the Test captaincy in 2018 in the wake of the Sandpaper-gate ball tampering scandal that rocked Australian cricket.

Previous captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner were forced to step down for their roles trying to alter the ball with sandpaper during a Cape Town Test.

Cricket Tasmania said it believed the “interaction was consensual, private” and took place “between mature adults”.

Cricket Australia chair Richard Freudenstein confirmed that it had investigated the matter at the time and found that there was no wrongdoing.

A few months later selectors went on to appoint Paine as captain of the scandal-ridden team regardless.

“While the board acknowledges an investigation cleared Tim of any breach of the code of conduct regarding this matter some years ago, we respect his decision,” Freudenstein said.

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.”

The clear front-runner for the role, Pat Cummins has been vice-captain for the past two years and would be the logical replacement for Paine.

The 28-year-old is the leader of the bowling attack, and has become the poster boy for Australian cricket in recent years.

Cummins addressed the potential of taking over the captaincy earlier this week – completely unaware that he was about to be right in contention for the role.

“I guess so – I’ve been in the role for a couple of years now…I’ll be ready if I have to,” he said.

At this stage though, Cummins would be well in front of the other potential candidates, given his role as VC in recent years and all-round good bloke status among the public and his teammates.

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