The Price Paid

Published: 2022
Pages: 375
Author: Paine, Tim
Publisher: Macmillan
Rating: 4 stars

Before I read The Price Paid, I was ambivalent about Tim Paine and whether he deserved to lose his place in the Australian team and also the captaincy of his country. Well, now I am certain he did not. What a stitch up! Cricket Australia (CA) comes out of The Price Paid, as having no loyalty to either Tim Paine or former coach Justin Langer.

The book is essentially an autobiography, with a focus on Paine’s Australian career and the toll of his indiscretion of sending risqué text messages to a then Cricket Tasmanian employee. The prologue to The Price Paid, deals with the text messages and the fallout when the story finally broke four years later. We find Paine, in a mess after the story hits the media. His wife has left him, he has resigned the captaincy of the team, and he has lost 10kg in weight.

We learn that CA investigated the texting incident years before the story came out and found no transgression by Paine of his CA contract. It found that the text exchange had occurred between two consenting adults and he was cleared to continue as Australian captain. When the story did hit the media, Paine expected some backlash, but believed CA had his back and that he would continue in the hegemony role. Instead CA distanced themselves from the original decision not to take any further action and, essentially, forced him to resign. Support from CA for Paine seems to have been zero since that point.

After the prologue, we go back to Paine’s life story. As a young kid he was obsessed with cricket and to a lesser extent football (Australian Rules), so much so that he declined an offer of a scholarship to a private school, so he could stay and play cricket with his mates. While he regretted it later, at the time it appeared an education would not matter, as Paine was fast tracked into First Class and then International cricket. He actually made his debut in the same match as Steve Smith. It seemed that as soon as incumbent ‘keeper Brad Haddin was finished, Paine would be his successor. But then disaster. Paine broke a finger while batting, which required screws, plates and even bone grafts taken from his hip.

The finger injury eventually cost Paine seven years in the cricketing wilderness and he writes that even now he cannot wrap the finger around a cricket bat properly, or for that matter a car steering wheel. The injury impacted his confidence in his batting as he became paranoid about fast bowlers damaging his finger again. Surprisingly he was still confident in his keeping. Just when Paine was about to take a 9 to 5 job he was given a call to wicket-keep for Australia in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane.

It was while in Brisbane for this match that Paine sent the ill-fated text messages. He probably didn’t give these messages a thought as his sudden rise in the cricketing world continued unabated when he was made Test captain. Paine provides the most complete coverage I have read about ‘sandpaper gate’ and the fallout it caused. He again makes some pertinent points about the penalties bestowed on Smith and David Warner being too severe. Paine discloses that all international teams ball tamper and described it as cricket’s worst kept secret.

Apart from the above major controversies, Paine takes us into the Australian dressing rooms and details his and the other players relationship with Coach Langer, who is described as intense. His discourse on the 2019 Ashes series, which finished two all, was also excellent and insightful.   

I found The Price Paid, a great read. The lack of a statistical section was something that Martin Chandler would not approve of, but to keep Martin happy there is a full index. Paine was assisted by one of the best cricket newspaper journalists in Peter Lalor. It would seem that Lalor hasn’t used a heavy hand in his ‘ghosting’ and the book really feels like Paine is chatting to his readership. Expressions such as ‘pissed off’ and ‘shits’ make it through, which provides an idea of the language used throughout the book.

I held off reading The Price Paid, thinking it was simply going to be a ‘cash in’ type account of recent Australian cricketing controversies. I am happy to admit I was wrong. This is a fine read and is highly recommended.    

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