OPINION

Paine should stay as Test skipper

Despite some questionable decisions, Tim Paine remains the best choice as Australian captain. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Despite some questionable decisions, Tim Paine remains the best choice as Australian captain. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

In the absence of a better alternative, Tim Paine should remain as Australia's captain for the Test series against South Africa and the short-term future.

Some people have short memories. Paine was brilliant in rallying the troops after the disastrous defeat at Headingley to retain the Ashes in 2019.

And Australia would not have won the first Test in Adelaide this summer without the Tasmanian's resolute knock in the first innings.

Since Paine took over from Steve Smith after the shameful events in South Africa almost three years ago, he has done an excellent job of galvanising the team and salvaging its damaged reputation.

It would be a retrograde step to go back to Smith, who tactically wasn't a great captain anyway.

As vice-captain, Pat Cummins is the logical replacement, but he is untried at any level as a skipper.

Traditionally in Australian cricket batsmen have been preferred as it is far more difficult for bowlers and wicketkeepers such as Paine to be captain.

Ask any keeper and they will tell you how tough their job is, let alone have the added burden of captaincy.

That's why they are better suited to the vice-captaincy.

There is some justification to the scathing criticism of Paine's performance in the last three Tests against India.

The pressure of trying to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy built and his frustration reached boiling point, resulting in a regrettable outburst against umpire Paul Wilson at the SCG and a verbal joust with Indian Ravichandran Ashwin, which rebounded horribly for him and the team at the Gabba.

His tactics, field placements and bowling changes were questionable at times - why didn't he try to buy a wicket by employing more leg-spin from Marnus Labuschagne or even Smith in India's second innings in Sydney and Brisbane?

You can understand his reliance on strike bowlers Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, but Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon under-performed.

The experienced quartet should be able to instruct and guide Paine with his field settings.

But who else was assisting the captain, who recently turned 36? Coach Justin Langer and his assistants were surely offering their opinions and should be held as accountable as Paine, but Langer has hardly uttered a word since the series defeat.

The batsmen should not escape scrutiny. If the Australians make 450-500 in the first innings at the Gabba, they don't lose.

By falling short of that target, they opened the door for the Indians, who deserve enormous credit for turning around their fortunes and winning the series.

Tennis stars have done themselves no favours. Photo: Brett Keating via Getty Images

Tennis stars have done themselves no favours. Photo: Brett Keating via Getty Images

Suck it up tennis princes, princesses

My long-held perception of most professional tennis players has been confirmed by their outrageous demands and complaints since arriving for the rescheduled Australian Open.

There are exceptions, notably men's world No. 2 Rafael Nadal, women's world No. 1 Ash Barty and dual Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka.

But generally, they are precious, self-indulged narcissists.

They are surrounded by people, often parents and family living the good life off their earnings, constantly telling them how good they are and why they are so special.

Do they understand we are living through a global pandemic and the tough steps taken by Tennis Australia and the state government are necessary to ensure this major international event, so important for Melbourne and Victoria, can go ahead in the safest possible way?

Victorians who suffered through the effects of a strict lockdown for more than three months, or had their holiday cut short after being stuck in NSW have little empathy for your situation - suck it up princes and princesses.

MORE HOWARD KOTTON:

Two weeks stuck in a hotel room is hardly ideal preparation for a Grand Slam.

But the accommodation and food have been provided by Tennis Australia - all these pampered players have to do is turn up and earn a minimum $100,000.

Surely that's not too much to ask, given that the tough times endured by people around the world.

Millions of lives have been lost, not to mention the social dislocation and economic upheaval caused by the pandemic.

While most players' practice and training routines have been affected, that does not provide enough of a case to change the rules for this Grand Slam.

Men's matches should remain the best of five sets, and not three as has been suggested, to maintain the event's integrity.

But these extraordinary circumstances have underlined unfair treatment of the sport's elite compared with the battlers - the stars have been afforded better conditions and more privileges.

As for Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews' assertion that Melbourne could lose the event to another city or country if it did not proceed, I don't agree with that argument given there is a long-term contract in place.

Plenty of sporting events have been postponed and rescheduled in the past year, including the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Albert Park which will be held later this year.

There won't be the usual influx of international visitors.

However, the Australian Open will go ahead in front of limited crowds and continue to showcase Melbourne to an international TV audience.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story Paine should stay as Test skipper first appeared on The Canberra Times.