Australia’s Test captain Tim Paine has responded to former skipper Michael Clarke’s comments that Australian players were “too scared” to sledge Virat Kohli during the 2018-19 summer for fear of jeopardising lucrative IPL deals.
“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 thought everyone who had the ball in their hand or when we were batting were trying their absolute best to win the game for Australia. 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.”
Speaking for himself, Paine said he had nothing to lose, as he wasn’t a part of an IPL franchise in any case, but denied that his team, by extension, wasn’t giving their best during the four-match Test series, which India won by 2-1.
“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.”
“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,” Paine said. “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.”
Australia’s on-field behaviour has been a constant subject of scrutiny ever since the ball-tampering scandal during the Cape Town Test, and Paine, who has been given the task to lead them in this time of cultural overhaul, didn’t see much rationale in the theory that holding back on a few words would have a massive impact on the result.
“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.
“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.”
Australia and India are set to lock horns again next summer when Kohli’s brigade returns down under for four Tests, but what precisely that series will look like remains to be seen as the world deals with the deadly coronavirus.