Paine resigned as captain last month over illicit texts and images sent to a Cricket Tasmania colleague four years ago. Paine took the top job in 2018 after the sandpaper scandal, and was presented as a squeaky clean reforming character, despite Cricket Australia’s knowledge of the incident.
He was cleared of wrongdoing at a hushed-up hearing in 2018, but Paine felt the need to step down with the texts becoming public, and has since been replaced by Pat Cummins. He has also opted for an indefinite break from the game, with the uncapped Alex Carey taking the wicketkeeping gloves.
Langer said he was not fully aware of everything that had gone on until just before Paine’s resignation but was “very sad about what has happened”, so visited Tasmania.
“He’s one of my really close friends and someone I admire enormously,” he said. “In this generation of players that I didn’t play with, he is one of the best people I’ve met in the game of cricket.
“He’s been a captain for a long time and he and I have been through a journey, like we have with all this group.
“It was nice to go down and see him, but you’d have to ask him how he’s going. I think when I saw him, he’s obviously shattered with what’s happened because he’s been such an exemplary figure in Australian cricket for the last four years, particularly. His life’s changed obviously so you have to ask him how he’s going.
“All I know is it’s important to go and see him, we talked about looking after our boys, having each other’s backs. It was a no-brainer for me.”
Langer says Paine may yet be seen again in international cricket, and believes age – he turns 37 next week – is not an issue.
“He absolutely loves cricket,” said Langer. “He’s 37, he’s as fit as any athlete, certainly in our squad and we’ve got some fit athletes. He looks after himself so well. Who knows? His No1 priority at the moment is his family and that’s how it should be. Not sure we’ve seen the end of him but we’ll wait and see, that will be his decision.”
Langer said the scandal had reminded him that “society can be brutal”.
“We live in a world of perfectionism, don’t we,” he said. “We are a very judgemental society. At my very first press conference, when I was asked about Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, there is not one person who is asking questions here or listening to this who hasn’t made a mistake in their life.
“And our captain [Paine], one of the best, made a mistake and is paying a heavy price for it. What I see in this job and in the society we live in is that it can be brutal. You learn your lessons but we live in an unforgiving society and that’s a real shame.”