Australia's Test captain Tim Paine. @ Getty Images
Australia’s Test captain Tim Paine. @ Getty Images

In the wake of Michael Clarke’s recent comments urging the Australia side to play tough, Test captain Tim Paine said that from the opposition’s perspective, they were “not concerned about being liked one bit”.

“Play tough Australian cricket, because whether we like it or not, that is in our blood. If you try and walk away from it, yeah we might be the most liked team in the world, we’re not going to win s**t, we won’t win a game. All we can want to do is want to win,” Clarke told Macquarie Sports Radio, as reported by foxsports.com.au.

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Paine cleared the air saying that the team are looking regaining the trust and respect of the Australian public.

“No one has spoken about being liked, certainly by the opposition. We’ve spoken about wanting to get the Australian public’s trust and make sure that clearly you want the Australian public and cricket fans to like or love the Australian Test team. Certainly, there’s that aspect, but from an opposition perspective we’re not concerned about being liked one bit,” Paine told ESPNCricinfo on Wednesday.

“We’re still going to play hard Australian cricket, as Michael put it, that’s not going to change. Clearly Johannesburg was a really strange circumstance and a difficult game to play in for everyone I think, but going into Dubai the guys competed as hard as they could and they’ll continue to, and we’ve got some more senior guys coming back now.”

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Although the Australia batting line-up is a little inexperienced, Paine reckons the bowling department – consisting of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins – raises the confidence of the team.

“With Hazlewood, Starc and Cummins, that’s only going to help guys grow with confidence around them. With guys like Travis Head and Marcus Harris, when you’ve got Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc and Patrick Cummins running in, it’s a bit easier to play that confident, aggressive style of cricket that Australia want to play and our team certainly wants to play,” he said.

Limited-overs captain Aaron Finch had raised an interesting point recently whether the team should choose to play “hard cricket” or fall into the “easy” trap of throwing the opponents off guard with verbal duels. Paine, while agreeing to Finch, said that the team are unlearning what became a habit.

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“I totally agree and I think that’s one of the small tweaks we’re trying to make,” Paine said.

“I think there’s been times in the past where we’ve gone overboard with that and actually gone away from what we’re good at. Our No. 1 strength is our skill, so we’ve got to play hard cricket in terms of making it difficult for guys to bat against us and to difficult to bowl against us – we want to make it an uncomfortable environment for people to play against us, but we want to do it mainly by our skills.

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“At the same time we’re going to be up and about and playing that tough, competitive Australian brand of cricket that Australia’s always been renowned for, it’s just knowing at times we might need to pull it back and make sure we’re getting the most important thing right first, and that’s our skill.”

Paine said he will allow his players to decide if they need to spur an individual contest or play the game without any verbal battles.

“It depends on the individual. I know some guys enjoy it, [to] some guys it doesn’t matter,” Paine said.

“In Test cricket and with some of the guys in the Indian side there’s going to be times where there’s a bit of heat out in the middle, and guys are going to be right into the contest. The focus for us has got to be on delivering our skill as well as we possibly can, so if guys want to get involved in a bit of that stuff to get themselves going, then that’s great,” he said.

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“But we now know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong, and what’s expected. We’re not going to be going over the top, but certainly you’ve got to stand up for your team and your teammates, and I’m sure when the time comes for that we’ll be doing that. But the main focus for us will be to play the best cricket we can.”

Australia face India in a four-Test series with the first match at Adelaide which begins on December 6.