Sports

Ashes 2021: Tim Paine goes on ‘indefinite mental health break’ after sexting scandal

Tim Paine is stepping away from cricket for an ‘indefinite mental health break’, his manager said on Friday (November 26), leaving Australia’s Ashes preparations in disarray a week after the wicketkeeper’s resignation from the captaincy. Paine was due to play for Tasmania in a domestic one-day match in Hobart on Friday in the leadup to the first Ashes Test in Brisbane on December 8, but will be unavailable for ‘the foreseeable future’, the state’s cricket association said.

“Confirming that @tdpaine36 is stepping away from cricket for an indefinite mental health break,” Paine’s manager James Henderson wrote in a social media post. “We are extremely concerned for his and (wife) Bonnie’s well-being and will be making no further comment at this time.”

Speculation over Paine’s place in the Test team has been rife since his resignation over revelations that he was investigated for sending sexually explicit text messages to a female former Cricket Tasmania (CT) staffer four years ago. Paine was cleared after a 2018 probe by CT and national board Cricket Australia (CA) but said last Friday he was concerned remaining as captain would be a distraction for his team during the five-Test Ashes.

He said he would nonetheless remain available for selection. CA said it did not condone Paine’s conduct regarding the 2017 text messages but endorsed his place in the Ashes squad. Selectors chairman George Bailey, however, confirmed Paine was no lock for the series while coming back from neck surgery.

Bailey said he would recuse himself from the decision to select Paine, a close friend and business partner, if there was contention on the selection panel. Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said this week that Paine’s selection against England would still prove distracting for the team.

Paine’s teammates, including spinner Nathan Lyon, said they hoped he would remain in the side. “Following discussions over the last 24 hours, Tim Paine has advised Cricket Tasmania that he will be taking a leave of absence from all forms of cricket for the foreseeable future,” CT said in a statement.

“Cricket Tasmania will continue to support Tim and his family both professionally and personally over the summer.”

CA was unable to provide immediate comment. Paine, who was the only specialist wicketkeeper named in Australia’s 15-man Ashes squad, is likely to be replaced by experienced white ball wicketkeeper Alex Carey or Josh Inglis, both of whom were named in the recent Australia ‘A’ squad.

Relinquishing his place could spell the end of 36-year-old Paine’s international career after 35 Tests. His resignation from the captaincy triggered acrimony between the state and national cricket associations, with CT accusing CA of hanging Paine out to dry.

CA chairman Richard Freudenstein said last week his current board would not have endorsed Paine as captain if presented with the same circumstances as the previous board in 2018. Australia are expected to name fast bowler Pat Cummins as captain in coming days.