Australia Test captain Tim Paine steps down over sexting scandal weeks before Ashes

Paine resigns ahead of historic sext exchange being made public

Cricketer Tim Paine has stepped down as captain of the Australia Test team over "revelations" about a sexting exchange he had with a former colleague.

Paine had been set to lead his side in the Ashes series against England in Brisbane in just three weeks' time.

The 36-year-old gave a tearful press conference on Friday, describing standing down as "an incredibly difficult decision but the right one for me, my family and cricket."

The wicketkeeper-batsman didn't explicitly mention the nature of the text exchange, but Cricket Australia’s (CA) news website referred to it as "revelations of a sexting incident involving a former Cricket Tasmania employee in 2017".

Though an investigation at the time found he had not breached CA's code of conduct, Paine told reporters he was recently made aware "this private text exchange was going to become public".

Tim Paine congratulated by Australia cricket teammates. Credit: AP

Australia's captaincy scandals

Paine was unexpectedly elevated to become Australia’s 46th Test captain following Steve Smith’s ban for the infamous ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018.

Following the scandal, then-head coach Darren Lehmann also resigned in a tearful press conference.

While vice-captain David Warner wept in front of reporters as he said he took "full responsibility" for the  plot to tamper with the ball during the test match.

Warner had already been banned for a year after an investigation found that he was the ringleader behind the plan.

Paine had drawn mostly praise for his execution of the demanding dual roles of captain and wicketkeeper, especially in Australia’s 2019 Ashes triumph in England.

His resignation comes as English cricket faces its own scandal, with the England and Wales Cricket Board due to meet leaders in the sport on Friday in a game-wide meeting in the wake of Azeem Rafiq's damning testimony on institutional racism in the game.

Boris Johnson on Thursday told ITV News he feels "horror" over recent revelations from Rafiq about racism in his sport and suggested the government needs to intervene in order to combat abuse.

Paine told a press conference: "My actions in 2017 do not meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain or the wider community.

"I am deeply sorry for the hurt and pain that I have caused to my wife, my family and to the other party."

"I am 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."

David Warner and Tim Paine (right) react during play on day three of the fourth cricket test between India and Australia. Credit: AP

Filled with emotion, the player continued: "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 Australia cricket team and it has been the greatest privilege of my sporting life to lead the Australian men’s Test team."

He asked for the "understanding and forgiveness" of his team and apologised to "fans and the entire cricket community".

"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," he added.

Paine has captained Australia in 23 Tests for 11 wins, eight losses and four draws.

He will still be available for selection for the Ashes.