Cricket: Australia ‘shocked’ by Paine scandal but back him for Ashes: Harris

Ashes 2019 - Fifth Test - England v Australia
FILE PHOTO: Cricket - Ashes 2019 - Fifth Test - England v Australia - Kia Oval, London, Britain - September 12, 2019 Australia's Tim Paine during the warm up before the start of play. Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

November 24, 2021

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s test cricketers were shocked to learn of Tim Paine’s resignation from the captaincy over a ‘sexting’ scandal but are fully behind him to continue as wicketkeeper for the Ashes, batsman Marcus Harris said.

Opener Harris said players only became aware of Paine’s decision half an hour before he went public last Friday to reveal he had been investigated over lewd text messages sent to a female Cricket Tasmania staffer four years ago.

“People were obviously a bit shocked but we’ve got a lot of good leaders around our group,” Harris told reporters on Wednesday.

“So it’s not ideal but someone’s going to have to step up and lead from the front.

“Painey will still be around and can still show leadership in many different ways but we’re looking forward to getting into camp and getting on with it.”

Paine, who has been playing a domestic match in Tasmania this week while other test players are on the Gold Coast, is the only specialist wicketkeeper in Australia’s 15-man Ashes squad.

However, selectors chairman George Bailey has confirmed he is no lock for the first test starting in Brisbane on Dec. 8 while he races to prove himself match-fit after neck surgery.

Harris said Paine was very popular among the playing group, had done a “really good job” under tough circumstances over the last few years and deserved to keep his place in the side.

“I think you’d probably still argue that he’s still the best gloveman in the country and he still played a few important innings last summer against India,” he said.

“I know he’s got all the support of the players and like I said, all that other stuff is up to people above me.”

Paine’s resignation and Cricket Australia’s handling of the sexting scandal have triggered recriminations, with Cricket Tasmania accusing the national body of hanging the wicketkeeper out to dry having cleared him of any wrongdoing in 2018.

The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday reported players were also unhappy with Cricket Australia’s treatment of Paine, but Harris said he was unaware of any rift.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)