Rajasthan Royals batsman Steve Smith
Australia's Steve Smith, named as the Rajasthan Royals skipper for IPL 2020, is hopeful that the league takes off at some stage of the year. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Former Australian captain Michael Clarke’s comment of his compatriots going ‘soft’ on India to protect their lucrative IPL contracts has left a cross section of the insiders of the league quite shocked. While the cash-rich league is often credited by the cricketing fraternity for reducing on-field animosity in international cricket, Clarke sees a different motive behind his national team not sledging Indian skipper Virat Kohli and his teammates for a particular period of time.

“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, ‘Pup,’ as Clarke is nicknamed, said in a breakfast show - creating quite a stir.

“Name a list of 10 players and they are bidding for these Australian players to get into their IPL team. The players were like: ‘I’m not going to sledge Kohli, I want him to pick me for Bangalore so I can make my $1 million US for my six weeks’,” he said.

A former coach of the one of the IPL franchises was surprised that Clarke was actually disappointed that the national team was not sledging enough against India - that too at a time when Cricket Australia has given them a diktat of image makeover. ‘‘Now, are we to understand that a former captain is encouraging something that is not in keeping with the ICC Code of Conduct?’’ the former international cricketer said to a query from Gulf News.

They were too scared to sledge Kohli or the other Indian players because they had to play with them in April (in IPL)

- Michael Clarke

Speaking off the record, at least two more officials associated with different teams felt that Clarke was ‘‘hugely overstating’’ the case. ‘‘I am aware of how he himself was negotiating with Mr Vijay Mallya to come to Royal Challengers Bangalore as captain in the early years of IPL,’’ one of them said.

While it’s a given that top professionals - both Indian and overseas players - are ready to stake it all to play in the IPL for the handsome purse, none that Gulf News spoke to felt any player would actually hold back thinking about their contracts. ‘‘My experience is players don’t think as much during a heated contest,’’ one of them said.

‘‘It (the IPL) has managed to bring down the animosity between international teams. The players from different countries are now sharing the dressing room and while they still have the same intensity when they play against each other, they are not creating ugly scenes that were becoming rather regular at the beginning of the century,’’ Sunil Gavaskar, India’s legendary opening batsman and a former member of the IPL governing council, had once put the things in perspective.

Mewanwhile as uncertainty prevails over the hosting of IPL 2020 with the looming shadow of coronavirus outbreak, Australia’s Steve Smith - named as captain of Rajasthan Royals, hoped for the league to start at some point of the year.

“Plenty going on in the world at present, but hopefully we can get an IPL at some stage,” Smith said in a podcast on Tuesday.

“The two seasons that I captained the Royals were both half seasons. Shane Watson gave me the captaincy in 2015 and then last year out of the blue, I took over at the back end of the season,” he added.

“Looking at having a crack at it full time and the Royals have a pretty good squad,” added the prolific batsman.