Tim Paine Photos
Tim Paine Photos

How Australia is rebuilding after Sandpapergate

FOR Tim Paine, it is a chance to win back the public's respect. Allan Border sees it as a "fresh start" and Chris Lynn just wants to go out and start belting sixes.

It is the 2018-19 Summer of Cricket, and it shapes as Australia's most important - and evolutionary - since Kerry Packer grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and dragged it out of the dark ages 41 years ago.

Then, as now, the cricket public suffered a crisis of confidence as their faith in the game was tested. Then, as now, the vehicles of change were a supremely talented group of cricketers and a new approach to media coverage.

 

New Australian skipper Tim Paine has introduced a pre-game handshake as one measure to rebuild the nation’s battered reputation as cricket bullies. Picture: Getty
New Australian skipper Tim Paine has introduced a pre-game handshake as one measure to rebuild the nation’s battered reputation as cricket bullies. Picture: Getty

When wicketkeeper Paine was handed captaincy of the Australian Test side in March after the South African ball-tampering scandal that saw Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for 12 months, the team's image was at an all-time low.

Paine's task over the coming summer is clear: win back credibility - and his plan to do that is equally cut and dried.

"We are Australia's team and that is a huge privilege," he said. "It is very important that we make Australians proud. To do that, we want to build a culture in the team that not only makes us better cricketers, but better people."

While no one could have foreseen the stunning circumstances than unravelled during the third Test in Cape Town, the summer's calendar could not have been put together better if it had been planned specifically to help Paine achieve his aims.

Tours by South Africa, India and Sri Lanka, an extended Big Bash series and then the World Cup and Ashes in England.

Dean Jones (L), Craig McDermott and Steve Waugh (far R) hold up captain Allan Border after winning the 1987 World Cup.
Dean Jones (L), Craig McDermott and Steve Waugh (far R) hold up captain Allan Border after winning the 1987 World Cup.

As Allan Border said, "If that doesn't get you excited, there is something wrong."

Border is in the perfect position to comment on the task ahead of Paine and his players. He got his first chance to play for Australia due to the disruption caused by World Series Cricket, and took over the captaincy of an underperforming side when a tearful Kim Hughes quit in 1984.

That he led the team from the front to win the 1987 World Cup final and Ashes victory in England two years later is regarded as one of the great acts of leadership in cricket history.

He believes the current upheavals in the Australian game offer enormous opportunities, on and off the pitch.

The suspension of Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft will open the door for new players to cement a place in the Test top order, while changes to the broadcasting rights that come into effect in 2019 see Seven and Fox Sports - for whom Border is a key commentator - easing out Nine after over 40 years of dominance.

"I see it as a real fresh start all around," Border said.

"It wasn't planned that way, of course, but after the public disgrace in South Africa, it is good that we will see new faces on the field and hear some new voices in the commentary box.

'It will be all part of the process of winning back the confidence of the public.

"I think the public will notice some subtle changes in the way the game is presented and some players will get a chance that they wouldn't necessarily have got.

 

Usman Khawaja has taken on a more senior role within Australian cricket. Picture: Getty
Usman Khawaja has taken on a more senior role within Australian cricket. Picture: Getty

"I think, most importantly, players like Usman Khawaja and the Marsh brothers will have to make the most of their opportunity. They've been around for a while but they haven't really exploded. Now they will have to step up.

"You're looking at players in Smith and Warner who produce around 200 runs a Test being replaced by players who contribute around 60 or 70, so they are going to have to respond to the challenge.

"It's the same with the young players coming through. The door has been opened and I'm looking forward to seeing who forces their way through.

"It's all about giving the public something to get excited about."

 

Chris Lynn can be the face of the Australian game for a new generation. Picture: Getty
Chris Lynn can be the face of the Australian game for a new generation. Picture: Getty

Which is where Chris Lynn comes in.

There is no more exciting player in the game than the big-hitting Queenslander, who has proved a matchwinner and crowd-puller for the Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash.

Back from a stint in the Caribbean Premier League and injury-free, he is determined to force his way into the Australian side for the World Cup starting next May.

"That's the aim, but I won't be thinking 'World Cup, World Cup, World Cup'," he said. "If I do that, I'll lose control of the process. I'll just be doing what I always do - try to have fun and smack the ball."

And when Lynn is having fun, the fans invariably are as well.

"There's no better feeling in the world than walking out and hearing the fans go nuts when your name is read out.

"It's all about the fans, for me. They love seeing the ball flying over the fence and I love doing it for them.

"It's easier said than done. You should try standing there when someone throws one down at you at 140km - but that's what it's all about. That's the challenge."

A challenge that Lynn takes very seriously.

"There's a bit of negativity about the game at the moment because of what happened in South Africa," he said. "It has damaged the game. You hear the comments.

"The way I look at it, it's up to us to work our arses off to get results. Not letting the fans down - that's what drives me. I reckon it's what will drive us all this summer."



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