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Australia’s Test captain and wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Paine has issued an apology to India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for sledging him on the fifth and final day of the third Test in Sydney on Monday.

Paine said frustration got the better of him on Monday when he tried to unsettle Ashwin, who played a key role as the tourists denied Australia to salvage a draw on the final day of the third Test.

“I want to apologise for the way I went about things yesterday… my
leadership wasn’t good enough, I let the pressure of the game get to
me,” the Australian skipper told reporters.

Stump microphones picked up Paine making a series of verbal jabs at Ashwin, which included expletives.

But the tail-ender was defiant and his unbeaten 39 helped keep the
series level at 1-1 to set up a winner-takes-all fourth and final Test
in Brisbane starting Friday.

Paine acknowledged his actions undermined the goal he set himself when appointed Test captain in 2018 to revamp the team’s toxic culture after the “Sandpaper-gate” ball-tampering scandal.

“I’m a captain who wants to enjoy the game, who wants to play the
game with a smile on his face and I fell short of my expectations and
our team standards,” he said.

Paine, who was also fined for dissent after an expletive-laden rant
at umpire Paul Wilson on day two of the match, admitted “my mood
throughout the whole Test was probably a bit off”.

He insisted the behaviour was a “blip” that would not be repeated and
said he had not considered standing down as captain over the incident.

Critics, including former England captain Michael Vaughan, said
Australia appeared to be heading “back to the old days” of sledging and
foul language.

Star batsman Steve Smith, who was Australia’s captain during the
sandpaper cheating scandal, also attracted negative attention when
footage suggested he scuffed up batsman Rishabh Pant’s guard at the
crease.

The stump camera showed Smith shadow batting and then apparently rubbing off the pitch marks — made by the batsmen to judge where they stand — with his boots.

Paine said it was just part of Smith’s regular routine.

“It’s one of his mannerisms, he was marking centre, he wasn’t by any
stretch of the imagination trying to change guard or do anything like
that,” he said.

Paine dropped three catches during the epic final day, including a chance from Ashwin shortly after their exchange, which did not help his mood.

“I ended up looking the fool didn’t I? You open your mouth and then you drop a catch,” he said.

He said he spoke to Ashwin after the match and they joked about the mistake.

Abdul Gh Lone

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