Gideon Haigh's epic response to Cricket Australia (CA) cover-up

"Inside Story: Unlocking Australian Cricket's Archive" - Book Launch
"Inside Story: Unlocking Australian Cricket's Archive" - Book Launch

Award-winning cricket journalist Gideon Haigh has offered a spectacular redaction to Cricket Australia's (CA) cover-up of Tim Paine's sexting scandal.

Australian cricketers are held to an incredibly high standard, and they hold enormous power and pertinence to the nation's culture - even owning the need to be on the front of cereal packets. No one is flawless, not even Australia's Test captain, and Paine explained that his decision to quit was due to the damage caused to Australian cricket.

But CA's actions have made his resignation more painful than it needed to be.

CA accused of spin

Haigh is known as the very best for measured, articulate and intelligible analysis of cricket. He jokingly told the Cricket Etc podcast that CA needed all the help they could get with "spin" by offering an alternate statement had he been on the board.

"Tim Paine did something stupid in 2017 of which he is rightly ashamed. It need not be said that CA did not condone it. That is obvious, we deplore it, it should not be minimized or trivialised. However, at the end of a thorough independent integrity process, it was found that no misconduct had occurred by our regulations at the time. The board deliberated on the matter and decided, on balance, that no further action was necessary. In hindsight, we may have been wrong on this. We understand that attitudes have changed, that there are greater sensitivities around interpersonal relations in the workplace, aggravated by a number of high-profile cases that have left no institution untouched. But, given that, we cannot in conscience try someone twice for the same offence merely out of squeemishness at our corporate embarassment. Since 2018, our players have received extensive education in this area. They understand the expectations and risks far better. Tim took full ownership of his actions and has been an exemplary captain. We think that the public humiliation that he and his blameless wife have endured are sufficient punishment for the infraction. We don't pretend always to be right in everything we do, but we always seek to act in good faith and fairness to all and we're dedicated to learning from our mistakes," he said.

What actually transpired?

CA's actions, both then and now, made Paine's humiliating resignation much worse. By making the decision not to make the matter public, nor to even discuss whether Paine could remain captain in 2018 revealed CA's ghastly attempt at its own brand management. Even in the wake of the "sandpaper gate" in Cape Town.

CA seemingly prioritized its image over transparency in 2018, which has attracted intense scrutiny. It plays to the common view that they were invicible and accountable to no-one at the time.

Paine took over the captaincy in a bid to improve the team's image after the Newlands Test in 2018, but having this issue lurking in the back of their minds for three years has remarkably backfired. The scandal even bypassed CA's Ethics Centre review of the game earlier this year, which endorsed Steve Smith as suitable to captain once again.

"I thought that was pretty poor."Heals didn't rate the fact CA did not have a representative alongside Tim Paine.

It's highly plausible that Paine could have remained captain if the matter had been made public in 2018. His spot as a senior wicket-keeper in the team would arguably be less scrutinized too.

Waiting until this week for the story to emerge has revealed a much larger issue. It was made apparent that CA considered this issue to be something they could brazen their way through.

Despite the incident, Paine has been an incredible servant of the game by taking over the Test captaincy in extraordinary circumstances - a post he occupied for three and a half years. He deserved loyalty, but was abandoned by the board's handling of the issue. Privately brazening their way through the scandal left no option for Tim Paine but to resign as captain.

Australia v India: 4th Test: Day 4

CA chair Richard Frudenstein said it was wrong to not make the investigation public or keep Paine as captain in 2018. He said that if the "same facts were presented today" then CA "would not have made that decision."

Frudenstein then acknowledged that the decision sent the wrong message that this "behavior is acceptable and without serious consequences."

He stated that the Australian captain must be held to the highest standards.

Gideon Haigh making more sense than anyone on this whole tawdry affair. The Advertiser, 2021-11-22 - Page 51ā€¦

Paine was investigated by both CA and Cricket Tasmania in 2018 in relation to any potential misconduct. It concluded that there was no wrongdoing, and referenced CA's Code of Conduct. Paine cooperated fully with the investigation and it was discerned that the exchange of explicit messages was consensual, sole and private - albeit distasteful.

However, that Code of Conduct has not changed and no new information regarding the case has emerged. Gideon Haigh rightly questioned whether they would reach a different conclusion today, claiming they were content to ignore it unless it became public.

While Richard Frudenstein and Nick Hockley (current CEO of Cricket Australia) were not on the board in 2018, they were reported to have been briefed on the issue. They have been accused of "passing the buck" by outlining they were not in office at the time.

Former chair David Peever also revealed that he was disappointed by their decision to publicly criticize previous administrations.

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Edited by Rohit Mishra
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