Did Australia go "a lot softer" on India during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2018-19 at home? Michael Clarke believes so, and feels the IPL, where players from around the world earn big bucks, made Tim Paine's men "too scared" to sledge Virat Kohli and Co in the series the visitors won 2-1.
"Everybody knows how powerful India are in regards to the financial part of the game, whether that be internationally or domestically in regards to the IPL," Clarke said on the Big Sports Breakfast radio programme. "So, I feel, Australian cricket, and probably every other team, over a little period went the opposite - actually sucked up to India. They were too scared to sledge Kohli or sledge the Indian players because they had to go and play with them in April.
"And they wanted… if Kohli is the captain in the IPL, Rohit Sharma is the captain in the IPL, you know, name a list of ten players, they are bidding for these Australian players to get into their IPL team. So the players are like, 'well, I'm not going to sledge Kohli, I want him to pick me for [Royal Challengers] Bangalore, so I can make, you know, a million US (dollars) for my six weeks'. And I sort of feel that was where Australia went through that little phase of our cricket, became a lot softer or not as hard as what we're accustomed to seeing."
For India, the victory was historic as they became the first Asian side to ever win a Test series in Australia. For Australia, the loss came on the back of the 2018 ball-tampering scandal that forced Cricket Australia to ban Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, and carry out an internal review of their team culture. Consequently there was added pressure on Paine's men to put up their best behaviour against India.
According to Clarke, there was also a cricketing reason for Australia not "winding up" Kohli, who he rated has one of the top batsmen he had played with or against. "I feel some players think by winding him up, he might try and play that big shot early out of aggression or frustration," Clarke said. "But yeah, I sort of feel Kohli is one of those players that you are better off saying nothing to and just allow him to hopefully be a little bit sleepy at the start of his innings and make a mistake."
Interestingly, what Clarke called a non-aggressive approach by the Australians keeping the IPL in mind, Kohli has said was down to respect, which the IPL had helped foster between players from different countries over the years.
"IPL has done a lot in terms of respecting each other," Kohli told Kevin Pietersen during an Instagram interaction last week when asked by the former England captain about on-field sledging. "I would never ever be able to do it [sledging] with AB [de Villiers]. There is a friendship that lasts much longer than all these things."