Tim Paine, the recently appointed Australian Test captain, on Thursday (April 19), vowed to clean up the side’s image in the aftermath of the ball-tampering saga, and is also planning to be constantly in touch with the now-banned Steven Smith, the former skipper, amidst cultural transition.
Paine was named Australia’s 46th Test skipper after Smith, along with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, were handed lengthy suspensions for their involvement in the scandal during the Cape Town Test against South Africa.
The 33-year-old divulged that the Australian team had already started working on their approach towards the game under the leadership of Smith. “We had started these discussions a few months ago and Steve was keen for us to play a different style and for me it is about carrying it on,” Paine revealed.
“We want to make sure when they (the banned trio) come back the environment and the way we play is how it should be. I have a role to play of winning the back the trust and faith of our fans and the Australian public. I have spoken to him (Smith) on the phone and via text. He’s someone who I certainly will be speaking quite closely to on how we go about it and keeping him in the loop. All three of them are going through a tough time and our thoughts are with those guys and we would love them back in the team.”
Paine added that sledging will no longer remain a part of the Australian team’s tactics. “I think there’s always a time and a place to talk to your opposition, but I think what’s said and how it’s said will be very different going forward,” he said.
The Cricket Australia is yet to give a confirmation regarding team’s new head coach following the resignation of Darren Lehmann. Australia’s next Test campaign will be against Pakistan in October, and Paine feels this six-month layoff will give players ample time to think about how they want to play this game. “We’ll have a new coach going forward, we’re going to have some time off where guys can take stock and think about the way they want to play,” he said.
“But certainly, playing international cricket you’ve got to be as competitive as you can be. But we’ve got to look at different ways of doing that and more respectful ways of putting opposition teams under the pump. Part of what we spoke about a lot is playing on skill, not emotion. I think in the last couple of years at times we’ve been a touch too emotional and got carried away on that side of the game. That’s a small thing we can improve on.”
The Tasmanian believes it’s his composed temperament that helped him emerge as the improbable man to lead the team in the aftermath. “I have been put in this situation because of how I was around the group in the last six-seven months,” Paine said. “I think what is important is to continue to do that and be who I am…be relaxed. I’m not an overly vocal captain but I would like to think that I will lead by example. Two years ago I didn’t see myself playing cricket for Australia and the fact that I’ve been there and lost it means I don’t take it (playing for Australia) for granted.”
The South African sojourn started on a brilliant note for Australia as they crushed the home side by 118 runs in the first Test. South Africa managed to bounce back in the next match and levelled the series 1-1 with two more games to go. Both sides arrived in Cape Town for the all-important encounter, and that’s where all hell broke loose for the touring party. Australia then went on to lose the last two games by huge margins and gave away the four-match series 3-1.
Paine admitted the entire saga took a huge toll on the side. “I’ve never been involved in something that affected so many people – from staff to players – and it was a really challenging two weeks and we didn’t deal with it very well,” he said.
“The silver lining is we get a clean slate. It hasn’t totally sunk in that I am the full-time Test captain. I think the enormity in South Africa was a shock but the job (captaincy) felt like it was only for a week but now I’m lucky we have this big break and I come home and can think how I want to go about it.”
The wicketkeeper-batsman said there’s no need of making wholesale changes as a little bit of tweak will do the job. “I don’t think it’s as disastrous as it’s been made out. “We’ve had this incident which has brought everything to a head,” Paine pointed out.
“During the Ashes there wasn’t a lot said about our culture and looking back it’s just a few little things we can tweak and do a little bit better as a team. If we do that then I think the Australian public will jump back on board pretty quickly. That’s one of our main aims for this coming summer.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been blown out of proportion. It was certainly bigger than we anticipated. Even in South Africa, until we got back, guys probably didn’t realise the magnitude of it. The public and sponsors have the right to say and do what they like when something like that happens. We have to cop on the chin and rebuild the trust.”