The world's media is mercilessly feeding off Tim Paine's sexting scandal as Australian cricket continues to spiral following Friday's bombshell.
Once the pride of Australian sport as the most loved team in the country, the men's Australian cricket team is again being portrayed as a laughing stock on the global stage.
Former captain Paine's resignation as captain on Friday came on the back of an explosive News Corp investigation that uncovered historical lewd texts sent by the 36-year-old to a former colleague employed by Cricket Tasmania.
Cricket Australia's integrity unit investigated the sexually charged messages before Paine was appointed captain following the infamous sandpaper scandal that rocked Australian cricket during the 2018 Tour of South Africa.
A Cricket Tasmania human resources department investigation also found Paine had committed no breach of the organisation's code of conduct.
A decision not to make the matter public at the time the situation was first investigated in 2017 has resulted in a social media backlash against Cricket Australia (CA).
The world's media has also reacted with a scathing assessment of Australian cricket.
England's notorious supporter group, the Barmy Army, had a field day with Paine's announcement — just weeks out from the start of the 2021-22 Ashes series with the first test at the Gabba, beginning December 8.
The travelling supporter group joked to its 236,000 followers on Twitter: "Tim Paine has resigned over 'ball tampering' claims".
A picture post was even less forgiving, showing Steve Smith and David Warner during their Sandpapergate press conferences and a distraught Aussie fan watching the moment England won the famous third test during the 2019 series — where Australia still retained the Ashes.
The famously fierce UK press went hard, foxsports.com.au reports.
Sky Sports' headline blared "Career in ashes".
Telegraph chief cricket writer Scyld Berry suggested England "may be privately pleased" with Paine's exit, calling it "a grave and destabilising moment" for the Aussies.
Daily Mail cricket correspondent Paul Newman accused Cricket Australia of embedded cultural issues.
The Evening Standard's Will Macpherson wrote that while Steve Smith's two-year sandpaper saga ban is over, making him eligible for the captaincy, "he was a weak leader who CA [Cricket Australia] may be reluctant to return to".
The headline on The Daily Mail UK's website was, "Paine Caught Out" alongside a photo of the cricketer with his wife and an edited transcript of the texting exchange.
The scandal has even made news in the United States, with CNN publishing the story for its millions of online readers.
The scandal is still big news in cricket-mad India.
Tim Paine carries a bat before the Australian team train at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney on January 5, 2021, ahead of their cricket test against India. He has now stepped down from his role as captain. Photo / AP
Cricket world react to Paine's bombshell
Many fans were in disbelief, while others slammed the fact Paine is only resigning now after Cricket Australia had already investigated the texts and found no wrongdoing.
Broadcaster Gerard Whateley lamented two captains have now lost their post in "disgrace", after Paine's predecessor Steve Smith was banned because of the ball-tampering scandal in 2018.
"There will be a national sense of shock and trying to take it in and comprehend it, and then to forecast what happens next, it's extraordinarily difficult to take in so instantly and rapidly," Whateley said on SEN's Dwayne's World.
"Because of the prestige of the office of Cricket Australia and the public nature of it, the requirement to speak routinely and not to have an issue lingering that would detract from either the position or the performance of the team, Tim's taken that view and that's immediately obvious, as soon as the story is published and you read the detail you go, 'No, Tim won't able to be captain in these circumstances'.
"The nature of it is stunning, it runs completely counter to the manner in which Tim has always conducted himself in the public sphere, he has been a tremendously dignified and respectful captain.
"When you put two together, that's two Australian captains in succession who have had to leave office in disgrace, one for what happened on the field and one for what's happened off-field.
"So that's diabolical for the position that is the Australian captaincy, and that it's happened two and a half weeks out from an Ashes series, while the cycle will spin violently for two or three days, this is not going to be resolved in two and a half weeks.
"So it will sit extremely heavily over Australian cricket going into the Ashes, keep in mind England cricket is in a full-blown crisis at the moment with the racism scandal that has been unearthed and their captain is not untouched by that, but that Australia's captain would have to leave office so abruptly is jarring, to say the least."
Paine said that "on reflection", his actions in 2017 did not meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain, or indeed "the wider community". Photo / Getty Images
Paine confirmed his resignation in an emotional press conference, describing the call to relinquish the captaincy — which he assumed after the ball-tampering saga in 2018 — as "an incredibly difficult decision, but the right one for me, my family and cricket".
"Nearly four years ago, I was involved in a text exchange with a then-colleague," Paine said.
"At the time, the exchange was the subject of a thorough CA Integrity Unit investigation, throughout which I fully participated in and openly participated in. That investigation and a Cricket Tasmania HR investigation at the same time found that there had been no breach of the Cricket Australia Code of Conduct.
"Although exonerated, I deeply regretted this incident at the time, and still do today. I spoke to my wife and family at the time and am enormously grateful for their forgiveness and support.
"We thought this incident was behind us and that I could focus entirely on the team, as I have done for the last three or four years. However, I recently became aware that this private text exchange was going to become public.
"On reflection, my actions in 2017 do not meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain, or the wider community. I'm deeply sorry for the hurt and pain that I have caused to my wife, my family, and to the other party.
"I'm sorry for any damage that this does to the reputation of our sport. And I believe that it is the right decision for me to stand down as captain, effective immediately. I do not want this to become an unwelcome disruption to the team ahead of what is a huge Ashes series.
"I have loved my role as captain of the Australian cricket team. It's been the greatest privilege of my sporting life to lead the Australian men's test team. I'm grateful for the support of my teammates and proud of what we've been able to achieve together. To them, I ask for their understanding and forgiveness.
"To Australian cricket fans — deeply sorry that my past behaviour has impacted our game on the eve of the Ashes. For the disappointment I have caused to fans and the entire cricket community, I apologise.
"I've been blessed with a wonderful, loving and supportive family, and it breaks my heart to know how much I've let them down. They have always stood by me, been my most loyal fans, and I'm indebted to them for their support.
"I will remain a committed member of the Australian cricket team, and look forward with anticipation to what is a huge Ashes tour."
— by Tyson Otto with Alex Conrad, news.com.au