Former captain Michael Clarke believes Australia went soft against India during the 2018-19 home series fearing sledging the likes of Virat Kohli would cost them lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) contracts. He also said Kohli right now is best batsman in the world across all three formats.
India’s 2-1 triumph made them the first Asian side to win a Test series in Australia who sorely missed batting mainstay Steve Smith and opener David Warner due to ball-tampering bans. “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,” World Cup-winning captain Clarke said on the Big Sports Breakfast radio programme.
“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.”
Kohli captains Royal Challenger Bangalore and his limited-overs deputy Rohit Sharma leads Mumbai Indians in the Twenty20 league which features several Australian cricketers. Smith skippers Rajasthan Royals and Warner is captain of the Hyderabad franchise, but the start of this year’s tournament has been put back to April 15 due to the global coronavirus pandemic and further postponement looks inevitable.
“So the players are like, ‘well, I’m not going to sledge Kohli, I want him to pick me for Bangalore, so I can make 1mn US(dollars) for my six weeks’,” said Clarke, who played for the IPL’s now-defunct Pune franchise in 2012. “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.”
Clarke believes sledging Kohli is probably counter-productive anyway. “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. “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.”
Australia fast bowler Pat Cummins is the IPL’s most expensive overseas buy after Kolkata Knight Riders bought him for $2.18mn in December.
Clarke also named the seven best batsman he played with or against, which included Kohli. “I think right now Kohli is the best batsman across all three formats. His one day and T20 records are phenomenal and he’s also found a way to dominate Test cricket. What Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar have in common is they love making big hundreds,” he said.
Six other best batsmen Clarke named are: Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting and Kumar Sangakkara.
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