Tim Paine's staggering return to cricket after sexting scandal

Tim Paine, pictured here in action for Australia against Sri Lanka in 2019.
Tim Paine in action for Australia against Sri Lanka in 2019. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Tim Paine is poised to make his return to first-class cricket this year following a break from the game in the wake of the sexting scandal.

Paine stepped down as Australia's Test captain in November last year after inappropriate text messages came to light between himself and a staff member at Cricket Tasmania.

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Soon after he took an indefinite break from the game, with many believing he would never play professional cricket again.

But it emerged on Monday that Paine has been secretly training with the Tasmanian state side in a bid to play in the upcoming Sheffield Shield season.

Cricket Tasmania chief executive Dom Baker confirmed on Monday that Paine is in line to make his return, despite currently not having a contract, and has been training with the team.

“It was just great to see him come into my office and request permission to train,” Baker told The Australian.

“He started here as just a 16-year-old all those years ago and has been a part of our cricket ever since.

“He is training as an uncontracted player to get fit for club cricket, but if he proves to be anywhere near his best expect to see him playing state cricket again.

“All of Tasmania and I think most of Australia wants to see him finish his career on his own terms.”

Tasmania's first outing this summer is a one-dayer on September 28 against South Australia, but Paine is aiming to return at club level.

However he could wear the wicketkeeper gloves for Tasmania's Shield opener against Queensland at Allan Border Field on October 6 if all goes to plan.

Former Test captain Ricky Ponting, who was recently appointed as head of strategy for the Hobart Hurricanes, has openly stated his desire for Paine to again play for the BBL franchise.

Tim Paine's return after sexting scandal

Paine tearfully resigned as captain of Australia just three weeks out from the start of the 2021/22 Ashes series.

Cricket Australia was made aware of the incident in 2018 but backed Paine to continue playing and captaining Australia at that point in time, desperate to restore the team's image after the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.

When the messages became public it was Paine's decision to step down, but one which Cricket Australia supported and felt was appropriate.

At the time of Paine stepping away from cricket, CA chief executive Nick Hockley said his organisation wanted to see him back "as quickly as possible".

"Would love to see him play again, for both his state and for Australia," Hockley told SEN.

"We want to see him back out there, playing and performing, as quickly as possible."

Tim Paine and wife Bonnie, pictured here at the 2020 Cricket Australia Awards.
Tim Paine and wife Bonnie at the 2020 Cricket Australia Awards. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Cricket Tasmania chairman Andrew Gaggin had previously blasted Cricket Australia for failing to support Paine after he was initially cleared of wrongdoing in 2018.

"In conversations I have had in recent days it is clear that the anger amongst the Tasmanian cricket community and general public is palpable," Gaggin said in a statement.

"Tim Paine has been a beacon for Australian cricket over the past four years and instrumental in salvaging the reputation of the national team after the calamity of Cape Town.

"Yet, at a time when (Cricket Australia) should have supported Tim, he was evidently regarded as dispensable.

"The treatment afforded to the Australian Test captain by Cricket Australia has been appalling, and the worst since Bill Lawry over 50 years ago."

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