Michael Clarke created a storm claiming Australia ‘cricketers sucked up to Virat Kohli‘ to protect IPL deals and went through a period when they became too scared to sledge the India captain. Also Read - Well, That Doesn't Depend On Us: Kohli's Response On India Playing County Games Ahead Of England Tour
However, current Australia Test captain Tim Paine disagrees saying he didn’t notice any of his teammates being nice to Kohli and claimed instead that not provoking the Indian was part of their strategy to keep him from scoring big runs. Also Read - Big Things Don't Come Easy: India Coach Ravi Shastri On New Zealand's WTC triumph
“I certainly didn’t notice too many people being that nice to Virat or not trying to get him out or anything like that,” Paine told ESPNCricinfo. “I’m not sure who was going easy on him; we certainly had a thing where we didn’t want to provoke any fight with him because we think that’s when he plays at his best.” Also Read - WTC Final 2021 Prize Money: Kane Williamson-Led New Zealand Won Rs 11.71 Cr And Virat Kohli's India Got Rs 5.8 Cr
In a recently released documentary The Test, Paine could be seen instructing his teammates to not engage with Kohli much as he feeds on aggression. India won their first ever Test series on Australian soil in 2018-19 and are due to tour them again later this year.
“Who knows what will happen this series and, as we saw in the documentary, there was still quite a lot of heat in some of those games. I certainly wasn’t holding back, but again the IPL’s not a huge draw for me at the moment, so I had nothing to lose. But anytime our guys go out and play a Test match for Australia, they’ll be giving their absolute all and I’m pretty sure they’re not thinking about an IPL contract when they’re running in, bowling to Virat,” he said.
Australian cricket has been under close scrutiny since the Newlands ball-tampering scandal and Clarke has on previous occasion criticised their changed on-field attitude in wake of the incident saying likeability isn’t going to win them matches.
Paine said aggression should always be secondary to actual cricketing skills
“What you say on the field is irrelevant 99 per cent of the time,” Paine said. “Sometimes you can get a little inside someone’s head or something like that, but if you’re not batting well and not bowling well, all the talk in the world doesn’t mean anything. There’s no doubt our first focus is on executing our skill and being as good as we can possibly be in that area and then sometimes things happen on a cricket field and you’ve got to go in, you’ve got to change your tack, or you’ve got to have a few words.”
Despite what has transpired in the past two years, Paine reckons Australia still fights hard as a team. “As we’ve seen the last 12 or 18 months, we still do that, we still stick up for each other, we still fight as hard as any Australian team, but we’ve probably just had to move with the times and I’ve been really proud of the way we’ve played out cricket,” he said.