Rejecting former skipper Michael Clarke’s contentious claims, Australian cricket team’s low-key aggression against India during the 2018-’19 Test series was more about winning back fans than rather than to protect their Indian Premier League contracts, said pace spearhead Pat Cummins.

The duel with India was only the second Test series after the ball tampering controversy that led to Steve Smith and David Warner’s suspensions and an overall criticism of their win at all cost mentality.

Cummins was Australia’s vice captain during the Test series when India won Down Under for the first time.

“I think probably a bigger factor was six months before leading into that Indian series the media and everyone commentating on the Aussie cricket team were pretty clear in their direction in the way they wanted the Aussies team to go and that was playing a little bit less aggressively out on the field,” Cummins, who is currently IPL’s highest paid overseas player at Rs 15.5 crore, told the BBC.

However he didn’t rule out that some players might have harboured thoughts about Clarke’s assumption that they “sucked up to” Indian skipper Virat Kohli in fear of losing out on IPL pay-checks.

“I’d say that would have been a bigger factor than trying to win or lose friends out on the cricket field. But you never know, that might have been a factor for some players.”

Australia skipper Tim Paine rubbished Clarke’s claims on Thursday, saying the Australian cricket team avoided provoking “any fight” with Kohli as part of their strategy to keep the Indian captain’s bat quiet and not a ploy to save IPL contracts.

Paine had 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.”

(With PTI inputs)