Bengaluru: Former captain Michael Clarke has said Australian cricket stars “sucked up” to Virat Kohli and India in order to protect their million-dollar Indian Premier League (IPL) deals.

A number of Australian cricketers including David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell,  play IPL every year. Former skipper Ricky Ponting is the coach of Delhi Capitals (DC). In December 2019, fast bowler Pat Cummins became the costliest overseas buy when Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) splashed Rs 15.5 crore. All-rounder Maxwell got Rs 10.75 crore from Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) while Nathan Coulter-Nile signed up with Mumbai Indians (MI) for Rs 8 crore.

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Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) paid Rs 4.4 crore to Australia limited-overs captain Aaron Finch during the IPL 2020 players’ auction in Kolkata.

“Everybody knows how powerful India are in regards to the financial part of the game, internationally or domestically with the IPL,” Clarke said on Sky Sports’ Big Sports Breakfast show.

He added, “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 (IPL).”

The 39-year-old Clarke, who has also played in IPL, said Australian players wanted to play for Kohli’s RCB and hence they did not sledge him.

He said, “Name a list of ten 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’. I feel like that's where Australia went through that little phase where our cricket became a little bit softer or not as hard as we’re accustomed to seeing.”

This year’s IPL has been deferred till April 15 due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It was to start on March 20. From Australia, 17 cricketers have IPL deals.