"Abuse is not acceptable in any workplace and talk, in my opinion, is cheap. It does not show one’s strength. Rather, it displays a weakness of character,” said Australia great Greg Chappell in an open to the current Australian captain, Tim Paine, urging him to let the ball and the bat do the talking rather than indulging in an ugly spat of words.

Paine was been under the scanner for all wrong reasons during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against India. And it’s not only Chappell who has expressed his discontent, but the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and even Shane Warne has publicly criticised the wicketkeeper-batsman for his antics.

Sarcasm is for winners

It’s one thing to sledge the opposition in order to wobble the concentration, but using cheap tactics, verbal abuse and personal digs can never be a part of any sport. They say sarcasm is for winners, but the kind of series Paine has had, it is safe to say he’s actually digging his own grave.  

Paine promised a ‘cultural change’ in the Australian dressing room upon being appointed as the new captain in 2018 following the infamous Cape Town controversy. But fast forward to the date, and the 36-year-old now carries the worst win percentage (47.82) for an Australian captain (minimum of 10 games) since Allan Border (1984-1994).

Credit where it’s due; Paine did a fantastic job in restoring Australia’s image after that colossal controversy, followed by the retention of the urn during the 2019 Ashes. Back then, everybody loved the humour Paine brought into the game to an extent that the pressure of Test cricket was no longer felt.

“Paine’s undemonstrative demeanour and capable leadership has not only seen Australia emerge from the rubble of Cape Town to become a top-level team, but it’s also resulted in their reputation rising from the depths to the heights,” wrote the legendary Ian Chappell. “Paine has overseen this resurgence with a quiet but steely resolve, a thoughtful approach and a splash of humour that helps relieve Test cricket’s tensions.”

As the Australian bowlers failed to decipher the Hanuma Vihari-Ravichandran Ashwin partnership during the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Paine decided to go with the verbal stoush, leaving not only the fans, but also the experts outraged. India eventually managed to pull off a historic draw and the skipper was fined 15 per cent of his match fee, and was forced to issue a public apology soon after. Everything that Paine did and said during the game backfired. In fact, at the time when Australia needed the wickets most, he dropped Rishabh Pant twice and spilled Vihari's catch in the dying moments of Day 5. If only had he taken the opportunities, the Sydney Test might have gone in Australia’s kitty.

Paine has often been termed as a ‘temporary captain’ and this might be the right time for Cricket Australia to look for someone with a better leadership quality. What he brings to the table is nowhere near how a captain should perform. He has not scored a Test century in 34 matches, and his usual returns have been subpar too. The 2020-21 Border Gavaskar might very well be his personal best return with the bat, but that has rather been overshadowed by his antics throughout the series. Not to forget the dreadful DRS reviews and a sterile performance behind the stumps.

“Why hasn’t he done certain things?” said Shane Warne of Tim Paine. “He hasn’t had the best time behind the stumps. I think at times their tactics haven’t been good enough, and I suppose that’s got to come down to Tim Paine as captain," he added.

A defeat at the Gabba in over 32 years is indeed infuriating given that Australia have slipped to third in the World Test Championship tally, but it also screams for changes. Under Paine, the Australian bowling attack, consisting of Jos Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon, failed to bowl out India in consecutive Test matches.

Consecutive Test series defeats at hands of India, this time against a rather understrength opposition, gives Australia a harsh reality check. And maybe this will force the Australian cricket board to start looking for options as the team hopes to bounce back with a greater response.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Patrick Hamilton