Captain Tim Paine has defended the Australian team’s culture, amid criticism that his behaviour and that of his players was “very poor” and “embarrassing” on the final day of the third Test.
Those criticisms came from England greats Michael Vaughan and Darren Gough, with the latter also accusing former skipper Steve Smith of “plain cheating” by scuffing up areas of the SCG pitch.
Paine, already fined for swearing towards umpire Paul Wilson in the match, cut a frustrated figure on day five against India at the SCG.
He was involved in a heated exchange with Ravi Ashwin, in which he called the Indian star a “dickhead”; though he was seen patting Ashwin on the back and sharing a laugh after play. Teammates Matthew Wade and Marnus Labuschagne were also extremely vocal around the bat as the match ground towards a tense draw.
Meanwhile, Smith was caught apparently scuffing up the batting guard of Rishabh Pant as the wicketkeeper-batsman flayed the Aussie attack. Gough also accused him of further scuffing the bowlers’ footmarks to aid the spinners.
Paine, credited with a major overhaul of Australia’s on-field behaviour after the ball-tampering scandal that occurred under Smith’s captaincy, said that his team “aren’t perfect”.
“Sometimes when the stump mics are on, it’s going to happen unfortunately, that’s part of it,” he said.
“We try our best but we aren’t perfect. Occasionally if the worst thing we’ve done is let the odd F-bomb go, then I think we are going OK.”
Paine said that he was disappointed with himself for his language towards Wilson, who he asked for “f—ing consistency” after a DRS verdict.
“Unfortunately I probably set a pretty poor example with my use of language. I was certainly disappointed with myself after I heard that,” Paine said.
Vaughan went further, saying that Paine’s behaviour on day five was substandard.
Meanwhile, Gough unleashed on both Paine and Smith.
“This is when it happens with Australia: when they feel they’re under pressure, they go for it. They go for it like nothing else, like no other team in the world. It just went a little bit too far,” Gough told TalkSport.
“First of all you’ve got Steve Smith, who had showed us all these tears and sorrow just a few years ago when he got done for using sandpaper on the ball; he was the captain who was responsible for that, because he was the leader of the team.
“Well now, during a break in play, in between overs, he’s going around and dancing around scuffing up the pitch and rubbing out the mark with his spikes, the batsman’s marker. So that was totally out of order.
“People say he’s done nothing wrong – well he has. He’s gone on to the pitch and trying to make it worse for the spinners to bowl on to a length and then he’s rubbing out the markers the batsman have put on to where he puts his bat (takes guard). So it’s plain cheating, in my book.
“And then the second one, just to top it off because they’re under pressure, Tim Paine – the captain, again, by the way – had already dropped a catch, he decided to get stuck into Ashwin. What he didn’t expect were Ashwin to come back.”
Gough mocked Paine’s attempt to strike fear into Ashwin by warning him that a Gabba Test match was looming.
“Ashwin responded and said, ‘Wait ’til we get you back to India, my old friend – that’ll be your last Test match, as well, as captain, because you’ll get [beaten]. And he (Paine) didn’t like that, so that’s when the abuse started; he called him a something-head … and lots of other stuff. ‘Nobody likes you in your team, I’ve got more Indian friends than you’ve got’, and it went on and on and on,” Gough said.
“Australia are supposed to have got it all in order with this captain, Tim Paine, they’re supposed to have sorted everything out. Given him a knighthood, basically, because of what he’s done to this Australian team, make them grow up.
“Well, they’re just dropping back into that zone. You’ve got to keep an eye on this. Australia, get your act together and get your act together right now, because it’s embarrassing.”
Paine and Ashwin engage in heated war of words
Veteran English cricket writer Paul Newman also gave it to Paine, branding him a “massive disappointment”, “classless” and “not very good”.
Indian greats were also unimpressed. Iconic batsman Sunil Gavaskar said that Paine was setting a poor example.
“I condemn it. I played against some hard Australian teams but there was nothing of this nonsense which we are seeing from the Australian captain,” Gavaskar said.
“For a captain, it’s certainly not befitting. Youngsters watching, youngsters listening to this will think that’s the way to go … it’s not the way to go.”
Former Indian Test player Aakash Chopra said that Paine was failing to live up to his reputation.
“Paine, if you don’t stop talking … batsman isn’t going to bat. Simple. Let your gloves do the talking,” Chopra wrote on Twitter.
“You’re considered to be the good boy of Australian cricket … live up to the reputation. At least.
“Let your gloves do the talking. Period.”