Tim Paine has lifted the lid on his exit as Australian Test captain, declaring he was hung out to dry by Cricket Australia while revealing the “strange” phone conversation that led to him standing down.
Writing in his newly-released autobiography, The Price Paid, Paine opened up on the fallout from the sexting scandal last November, which resulted in him relinquishing his duties as captain.
Although, as Paine writes, he only did so as he felt as if CA bosses had “held a gun” to his head after a “strange” conversation with chief executive Nick Hockley and an unnamed public relations consultant.
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“We did a phone link which included this person they’d hired from a public relations firm who’d apparently given advice to the board in the past,” Paine writes.
“He said that he’d been in the newspaper game for many years and this was going to be huge and would not go away. I found it very strange that this person, someone I’d never met and someone who did not work at Cricket Australia, took the lead in the call while Nick, the chief executive, took a back seat.
“The consultant then said that the best way to get ahead of the story was if I stood down as captain.
“I was stunned by that, so was James (Paine’s manager, James Henderson).
“Who was this guy? What did he know about the circumstances? That was the first time anyone had mentioned me resigning as captain. There was no way I was doing that.”
Paine and CA were both aware of the incident and the former Australian skipper was cleared of any wrongdoing by an investigation at the time.
The 37-year-old also said and continues to maintain that the sexting exchange was consensual.
Paine did open the book by conceding that his actions were selfish and not fair to wife Bonnie but still in his mind did not seriously consider standing down until the conversation with Hockley.
“I knew what had happened,” Paine continues in the book.
“Cricket Australia knew what had happened and in my mind this guy didn’t know, or worse than that, it was like he believed that I had sexually harassed her.
“Then Nick chimed in, saying how experienced this guy was and how he thought I should listen to his advice. I said, ‘Do you want me to resign as Test captain, Nick?’
“He couldn’t give me a straight answer, or wouldn’t. He kept talking around in circles.
“And this guy said, ‘If you resign as Test captain it will take the air out of it but if you stay on they are going to keep coming at you.’ I think he said I wouldn’t last until Monday and I replied that I would if they backed me in.
“I said to Nick, ‘You and the board know what’s happened, you have an integrity report that clears me of any wrongdoing to anybody and that it was a personal matter.’
“It was becoming obvious what Cricket Australia wanted me to do but they didn’t have the courage to say it themselves, they were letting their hired consultant run the show.
“They’d held a gun to my head. I couldn’t go on without their support.”
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Paine added that there was a “feeling” that if he did not make the decision to stand down himself it would be done for him.
“I felt they were driven by the need to protect their image, they’d got in someone to look after them and he’d decided that I had to be sacrificed to save them, they were hanging me out to dry,” he writes in the book.
“The board had met that night and it was clear to me that they wanted to cut and run. I think that’s why they got Nick and the consultant to call me.
“I was disappointed and I was tired of this. I was prepared to cop the flak for what I did, but in my mind Cricket Australia had abandoned me and made it look like they thought I’d sexually harassed someone and so everyone else would think that too. I felt like them flipping almost vindicated the story.
“The thing that got me later was when Cricket Australia said they would have handled it differently to the way it was done back in 2017, but for that seven days or whatever it was, they were doing their level best to stop the story coming out. When it got out, they seemed to change their tune about it.”
While disappointed about the handling of the situation by CA, Paine also spoke of the “sickening” feeling he felt once he realised how his actions had impacted wife Bonnie and his family.
“I never thought I wasn’t putting my wife and family first, but when I took a step back it is ridiculous that I couldn’t see how selfish I was, how much in my own bubble I was,” Paine told News Corp cricket journalist Peter Lalor last week.
“I remember Bonnie saying something to me years ago and I was thinking, ‘What is she talking about? I’m a good husband, I do everything’, but I see now I was hopeless. I wasn’t a horrible person, but everything I did was centred around me and what I needed to do. And now I probably am – no, I am – completely the opposite.
“I don’t know if I could play international cricket the way I am now, maybe I would be better, but I have always been the sort of person who thought they needed to be fully immersed, that’s the way I’ve done it. I didn’t know any other way.”
“Initially, I was just concerned with losing cricket, but that soon became the least of my concerns. It was shocking. I’d be sitting at home thinking of the memories we’d had in it, about the kids and everything Bonnie and I had created, and to think I’d messed that up was horrible.
“It was sickening and then it got to the point where I thought why bother even trying.”