Former captain Michael Clarke’s comments that Australian cricketers were scared to sledge Virat Kohli in fear over not getting Indian Premier League contracts has been rubbished by current Test skipper Tim Paine.

India had defeated Australia 2-1 in the four-match affair, with the visitors creating history by winning a Test series Down Under for the first time.

The Australian cricket team did not want to unnecessarily provoke Kohli during the 2018-’19 Test series Down Under but his predecessor Clarke’s claim of players being scared to take him on in order to protect their IPL deals is far from the truth, Paine said.

Paine, instead, called it a tactical decision not to engage Kohli into a verbal duel and there was no other motivation.

“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,” he added.

Talking to Big Sports Breakfast, Clarke had said that Paine and his men were “too scared” to sledge the Indian players.

“Everybody knows how powerful India are in regards to the financial part of the game, internationally or domestically with the IPL,” Clarke was quoted as saying. “I feel that Australian cricket, and probably every other team over a little period, went the opposite and actually sucked up to India. They were too scared to sledge Kohli or the other Indian players because they had to play with them in April.”

In the Amazon Prime documentary around the Australian cricket team, titled ‘The Test’, Paine was seen telling his team that his side should just ignore Kohli during the Test series and not give him anything to feed off and explode into form. But later, in the second Test in Perth, Paine was seen breaking his own rule and went toe-to-toe with the Indian captain, trading verbal blows as Australia bounced back to level the series. The two skippers got into each other’s way once and had to be asked by the umpires to behave themselves.

“ we saw in the documentary, there was still quite a lot of heat in some of those games,” Paine said. “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.”

The 35-year-old backed his players to give their best every time they compete. “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 added.