'Major problem': Steve Smith captaincy twist in Tim Paine scandal

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Pictured left is a teary Tim Paine, with Australia Test cricket teammate Steve Smith on the right.
The Tim Paine scandal may prove fatal for Steve Smith's Australia Test captaincy hopes. Pic: AAP

A former Australia Test cricket captain has poured cold water on Steve Smith's prospects of being reinstated to a leadership role in the wake of Tim Paine's bombshell resignation.

Cricket Australia faces fresh questions regarding disclosure and double standards as it prepares to lock in a captain and vice-captain, with Smith's fate likely to prove divisive.

CA's board, plunged into crisis mode because of sexting revelations that prompted Paine to step down as men's Test captain, has urgently shifted its attention to a successor.

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Pat Cummins remains the frontrunner, although CA chair Richard Freudenstein noted Smith will be considered amid a "very thorough but brief process" to appoint Australia's 47th Test skipper.

Smith, having served a two-year leadership ban imposed by CA in the aftermath of the Cape Town cheating scandal, declared in March he was open to returning to the pressure-laden post.

Yet the former skipper could be overlooked altogether by a governing body desperate to restore focus on the Ashes opener that begins December 8, rather than past sins.

Former CA and International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed argued the board was in a "no-win situation" after failing to disclose the Paine investigation in 2018.

Seen here, Tim Paine chokes back tears after resigning as Australia's Test captain due to a sexting scandal.
Tim Paine resigned as Australia's Test captain after his sexting scandal became public. Image: AAP

"That's one of the closing doors ... there's always the possibility that it will become public. These things generally do, it's very hard to keep a secret in sport," Speed told SEN.

AAP spoke to a notable former captain of Australia's Test side, who questioned CA's approach at the critical juncture.

"They're still trying to cover things up," he said.

"Go back to 1994, when Mark Waugh and Shane Warne were found with John the bookmaker. They tried to cover that up, it didn't come out until '98.

"They haven't learned anything.

"If Paine's not fit to be captain now, which he's obviously not, then once they found out (in 2018) that should have been it.

"The only reason I assume Paine kept his job is because they liked him at board level, there is a major problem if that's how you base your judgements.

"If they were to appoint Smith, as captain or vice-captain, I'd be asking the same question: 'If he wasn't fit for the captaincy back then, why is he suddenly fit now?'"

CA chair's Tim Paine remarks cause a stir

The headlines and hate generated by Smith, at the start of this year when he marked the SCG pitch while shadow batting as a fielder, underline the additional scrutiny he will battle if donning the blazer again.

CA will be keen to rebut allegations of being optics-obsessed and opaque, but it won't be easy.

New CA chair Freudenstein sparked uproar after insisting Paine would have been stood down as captain under the current board - in remarks that left his predecessor David Peever fuming.

Freudenstein's comments on Saturday essentially claimed that while the findings of the investigation were still correct, Peever's board should have held Paine to a higher account as captain.

But Peever questioned how any decisions could be made if the texts were found to be private, consensual and not an act of misconduct.

The Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA), which previously lobbied for Smith and David Warner's sandpaper-related sanctions to be downgraded, also made its unease about Freudenstein's Paine comments clear.

"Not a lot has changed in the last four years, other than that the matter has become public," ACA boss Todd Greenberg told SEN.

"Tim went through this investigation at the time, he was very forthcoming.

"He made an enormous mistake. But what of us have not made mistakes?

"We need to be careful about saying whoever will take over the captaincy will be perfect as well.

"We're not appointing the Archbishop of Canterbury here ... if our expectation is the captain is perfect, we will be in a lot of trouble."

with AAP

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