Australia wasn’t soft on Virat Kohli in 2018-19, says Tim Paine

Paine says the decision not to engage Kohli in verbal duels was a tactical one.

In this picture taken on January 3, 2019, Virat Kohli walks out to bat during the fourth Test between Australia and India at the SCG. The Australians chose not to sledge him in the series as he would perform well if fired up, says Tim Paine.   -  Getty Images

The claims made by former Australia captain Michael Clarke of players being scared to sledge Virat Kohli in India’s 2018-19 tour in order to protect their IPL deals is far from the truth, Test captain Tim Paine has said.

Paine pointed out his team didn’t want to provoke the India captain unnecessarily.

“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,” Paine said.

‘Lot of heat’

India is scheduled to tour Australia from October, 2020, to January, 2021, to play four Tests, three One Day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals. “Who knows what will happen [in] this series and, as we saw in the documentary (The Test), 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,” 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.”

In November, 2018, Clarke had slammed attempts to improve the image of Australian cricket in the wake of the infamous ball-tampering scandal, saying the national team “won’t win a game” by “worrying about being liked.” Paine said verbal wars won’t win matches unless one puts up the effort on the field.

‘Proud’

“What you say on the field is irrelevant 99 percent 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,” he said.

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“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 our cricket.”

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