Tim Paine’s abrupt resignation as Australia’s Test captain has given England renewed hope of an upset Ashes win, with the hosts suddenly plunged into turmoil.
After almost three years at the helm, a shattered Paine ended his tenure as Australia’s Test skipper on Friday as he fought tears after a regrettable sexting scandal from 2017 came to light.
READ MORE: Cricket Australia blasted over ‘silence and inaction’ after Paine exit
Paine’s bombshell announcement has rocked what had seemed a perfect lead-up to the Ashes for Australia, with a crop of players coming off the back of securing the elusive T20 World Cup last week.
The Telegraph‘s Scyld Berry wrote that signs Paine was not perhaps as squeaky-clean as outwardly portrayed were evident last year when he sledged Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
“The stump mic caught comments by Paine during their home series against India which showed that Australia’s team had not cleared up their image as much as they wanted outsiders to believe,” Berry wrote.
“And as an omen for this forthcoming series against England, he declared that the Ashes would go ahead with or without Joe Root – and now it looks as though the series may go ahead without Paine himself.”
Berry also called the entire ordeal of Paine’s shock resignation a “grave and destabilising moment” for the Australian camp.
READ MORE: Australian Cricketers’ Association says Paine shouldn’t have quit
Paine’s resignation has left Australia searching for its next skipper, with current vice-captain Pat Cummins the favourite along with former captain Steve Smith.
“Cummins’ job would be immensely onerous if he is not only Australia’s leading fast bowler, and captain, making all the decisions on the field and dealing with all the media requirements, as well as batting at No 8,” Berry added.
“England may be privately pleased by this latest development.”
“Australia appeared to have all the momentum heading into the highly-anticipated Ashes series against England in less than three weeks — but that suddenly changed when a tearful Tim Paine quit as captain on Friday,” an editorial in The Times read.
Paine resigns in pre-Ashes bombshell
“They now head into the Ashes at home without a captain who has redefined the role since his appointment in 2018, winning widespread praise for reforming a toxic team culture.
READ MORE: Lingering Paine problem that won’t go away ahead of Ashes
“After losing their last two test captains amid allegations of misconduct, Cricket Australia will be certain to do their due diligence before appointing the next man to take over the job.”
The Evening Standard‘s Will Macpherson threw up Smith as a potential option, but also called the ex-captain a “weak leader who CA may be reluctant to return to”.
“Pat Cummins is Paine’s vice-captain, and viewed as a future leader,” Macpherson wrote.
“Australia, historically, have rarely turned to bowlers as captain, and Cummins has a huge workload across three formats. He is, however, the best fit as a statesman.”
“Devoid of context, Smith would be a no-brainer to replace Paine: he is the first name on the Australia team sheet, one of the game’s all-time greats who regularly terrorises England and is well liked in the dressing room,” an editorial from The Telegraph read.
“The catch, of course, is his history.”
“Part of his punishment was that he was banned from captaining any side for two years so it would seem inconceivable that he could be deemed ready to take back the role so soon after one of the most traumatic episodes in Australian sporting history.”
The Telegraph also threw up Marnus Labuschagne as a potential dark horse for the captaincy.
“Nobody doubts either Labuschagne’s thoughtfulness for the game or his character, and he has experience of captaining age-group teams at his state side, Queensland,” the editorial read.
“Yet the job of leading Australia is an onerous one and there will be concerns that a 27-year-old just three years into his international career simply is not ready for the task, and that promoting him now would negatively affect his batting.
“And Australia desperately need the runs of Smith and Labuschagne to bulwark an otherwise underwhelming batting line-up.”
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!