Australian cricket captain Tim Paine has stepped down – less than a month before the start of the Ashes – after admitting he sent explicit messages to a female co-worker in 2017.
Paine, 36, had been expected to lead his side in the series against England, which starts in Brisbane on 8 December, but said he had made the “incredibly difficult decision” to stand down as skipper.
While resigning the captaincy, he said he wanted to remain a member of the test squad.
Cricket Australia has said it accepts the resignation and will appoint a new captain.
Appearing at a news conference in Hobart, Paine said: “As a background on my decision, nearly four years ago I was involved in a text exchange with a then colleague.
“At the time, the exchange was the subject of a thorough CA (Cricket Australia) Integrity Unit investigation, throughout which I fully participated 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.”
The wicketkeeper-batsman, who married his singer wife Bonnie Paine just a year before the text exchange took place in 2017, did not speak about the nature of the messages in his resignation speech, but Cricket Australia’s news website referred to it as “revelations of a sexting incident involving a former Cricket Tasmania employee”.
Current vice-captain and paceman Pat Cummins is the most likely choice of replacement.
Paine was unexpectedly promoted to become Australia’s 46th Test captain after Steve Smith’s ban following the infamous ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018.
CA board chairman Richard Freudenstein said: “Tim felt it was in the best interests of his family and Australian cricket to take this decision to step down as captain.
“While the board acknowledges an investigation cleared Tim of any breach of the code of conduct regarding this matter some years ago, we respect his decision.
“CA does not condone this type of language or behaviour. Despite the mistake he made, Tim has been an exceptional leader since his appointment and the board thanks him for his distinguished service.”
Speaking to the media, Paine said he thought the matter had been dealt with.
He said: “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.”
Paine said he didn’t want the scandal to become “an unwelcome disruption to the team ahead of what is a huge Ashes series.”
He added: “I have loved my role as captain of the Australian cricket 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 I’m deeply sorry that my past behaviour has impacted our game on the eve of the Ashes.”
In a statement, Cricket Tasmania said the allegations against Paine were only raised when the female employee was charged with theft.
Chairman Andrew Gaggin said no complaint was made until mid-2018 following the message exchanges in November 2017.
“As soon as Cricket Tasmania was made aware, it undertook an investigation that determined the interaction was consensual, private, occurred on the one occasion only, was between mature adults and was not repeated,” Gaggin said.
Paine has played 35 tests for Australia, taking 150 catches behind the stumps.
He has scored 1,534 runs at an average of 32.63 with a high score of 92 and nine half-centuries.