Responding to Michael Clarke’s claim stating the Australian cricketers didn’t “sledge” Virat Kohli to protect their IPL deals, Australia Test skipper Tim Paine said that his team didn’t provoke the India skipper because he plays at his best in such situations.

“We certainly had a thing where we didn’t want to provoke any fight with him (Virat Kohli) because we think that’s when he plays at his best,” Paine told ESPNcricinfo.

Clarke had said that there was a phase in his country’s cricket and in other teams as well where the players believed sledging Kohli or other big Indian players may jeopardise their IPL career.

“I certainly didn’t notice too many people being that nice to Virat or not trying to get him out or anything like that,” said Paine, who had hosted Kohli and his men in their most recent Test series between the sides that India won 2-1.

“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,” he added.

Backing his men, Paine said that none of them was thinking about an IPL contract while they were facing Kohli.

“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. 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,” said the Aussie.