In the moments after India secured an unlikely draw at the SCG, Australia’s captain Tim Paine privately conceded to R Ashwin that he had made himself “look the fool” by calling the touring spin bowler a “d*******” and then following up by dropping his third catch of the day.
Fewer than 24 hours later, Paine elected to publicly apologise for poor behaviour on the field throughout the Sydney Test while also conceding that his darkening mood ultimately contributed to his team’s failure to close out victory over India as his usually supple gloves clanged vital chances offered up by Rishabh Pant and Hanuma Vihari.
At the age of 36, nearly 18 months after he had originally pondered retirement at the end of the 2019 Ashes, Paine is well aware that in terms of both performance and behaviour he cannot afford any more days like the final one of the SCG Test, and made that much patently clear after jumping into the media seat as a last-minute substitute for Nathan Lyon.
“International cricket at the moment with the hub life and in the bubble you have a fair bit of time to yourself and last night for me was one of those moments to sit back and reflect on the Test match. I think it was important to address some things from yesterday,” Paine said. “I want to apologize for the way I went about things yesterday. I’m someone who prides myself on the way I lead this team and yesterday was a poor reflection of that.
“Normally for a wicketkeeper if I’m dropping catches then I’ve looked at the technical stuff and that was okay, so for me I think it was all around my mood, being a bit tense, and not being focused on my number one job at the time, which is to catch the ball,” he said. “I was distracted by other stuff and a little bit agitated and grumpy at times. So for me, the best version of Tim Paine playing cricket and wicketkeeping and captaining is someone who’s got a smile on his face, someone who is enjoying the game and when I’m like that, I’m a very good wicketkeeper.
“I think if you pretend yesterday was okay, and my behaviour was okay and my wicketkeeping was okay then you’ve probably got a problem. But I’ve said a few times in the last six months I feel like I’m actually getting better as a cricketer. I’ve played my best cricket in the last six months, yesterday was a poor day.”
Asked whether he had set back the regeneration of the Australian team, a long process going back to the infamy of the Newlands scandal in 2018, Paine said he and the team wanted to be known for setting high standards of behaviour, rather than the opprobrium he has faced for the way he carried himself at the SCG.
“I raised it with [Langer] and said – look, there are little things, I’m normally a pretty relaxed person in the changerooms. And even when we were batting in this Test, I was on edge – I was wandering around the changerooms. I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t watch and I think that added to the tension in our changerooms and I pride myself on, if anything, taking the tension out of our change room, not adding to it.”