‘Very clever’: How stump mics have played into Paine’s hands
STUMP microphones, for so long an enemy of Australia's cricket team, have become an ally this summer.
Australia asked broadcasters to turn down mics earlier this year during their Test tour of South Africa, as per International Cricket Council guidelines that formerly dictated they should be off between balls.
Tim Paine, at that point playing under the captaincy of Steve Smith, turned viral marketer and plugged Cricket Australia's sponsors as he unsuccessfully tried to change the broadcaster's stance in Durban.
Now the listening devices, left on as per a change in the ICC's approach that was part of a broader crackdown on poor behaviour, have played into Paine's hands in Australia's four-Test series against India.
"He's quite an intelligent man, so I think the way he went about it was brilliant," Glenn Maxwell said of Paine.
Paine, stationed behind the stumps, is affected by the ICC's change more than any other Australian.
He was caught out swearing on day five of the second Test, remarking he must be "hearing s---" while mulling whether to review a caught-behind appeal, but that barely caused a ripple compared to comments about counterpart Virat Kohli.
Paine and Kohli swapped barbs on days three and four of the contest in Perth, and the former memorably quipped "you can't seriously like Virat Kohli as a bloke" while speaking with India opener Murali Vijay.
The remark went viral on social media, earning Paine no shortage of Australian admirers and Indian detractors given Kohli's profile in the two countries.
Kohli insisted after play he had no issue with stump mics, but it was notable that India refused to conduct a single interview with broadcasters from day three onward in Perth, having previously been relatively obliging.
Whether that was in protest at what they felt was unfair treatment - rage related to the contentious catch that dismissed Kohli - or a decision based on the fact Australia seized the upper hand is up for debate.
The expectation is that mics will again form a key part of Fox Sports and Seven's coverage at the MCG, with the former having taken the unprecedented step of silencing commentators to let Paine or India keeper Rishabh Pant call the play at certain points.
Some Australian players, wanting a degree of privacy out on the field, were far from thrilled with the ICC stump-mic reforms but many have since come around.
"You've just got be a bit more careful about it as a player, like it or not," Maxwell said.
"A bit more wary ... it's a family show.
"I know I have to be a bit careful when I bowl, especially when I bowl a bad ball."
Ben Stokes was reprimanded last year for swearing at himself during a Test, a decision that legends Mike Atherton and Michael Holding branded "ridiculous".