A far cry from animosity: Pant left holding the Paines' baby

Australia's Tim Paine takes a break from batting during an optional training session in the nets in Sydney, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, ahead of their cricket test match against India starting Jan. 3. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
India's Rishabh Pant plays a cut shot during a play on day two of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)
Australia's captain Tim Paine, left, looks back after getting caught behind during play on day four of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

SYDNEY — It turns out, they were just kidding.

Some light has been shed on the on-field banter between rival wicketkeepers with an Instagram post by the wife of Australia captain Tim Paine praising India's young gloveman Rishabh Pant as the "Best babysitter."

Bonnie Paine's post, and photo of Pant holding the baby, Charlie Paine, while the two teams visited the Australian prime minister's residence on New Year's Day has been widely shared on social media by the likes of the International Cricket Council and legendary spin bowler Shane Warne.

Banter between players has long been a factor in international cricket and is referred to in Australia as sledging, but it sometimes goes too far.

Some Australian teams have been criticized in the past for crossing the boundary with their sledging, and there has been animosity between Australian and Indian players on previous tours.

Audio of some of the verbal exchanges between Paine and Pant in the third test in Melbourne last week was broadcast live.

Paine at one stage raised Pant's omission from India's limited-overs squad, suggested his younger rival would have enough spare time as a result on his "holiday" to babysit his children and join one of the franchises in Australia's Big Bash Twenty20 league.

"You can come over for dinner. Do you babysit? I'll take my wife to the movies, you can look after the kids?" Paine was heard to say on the TV broadcast.

Pant responded by questioning Paine's appointment as Australia's "temporary captain" in the aftermath of a ball-tampering scandal in March that led to 12-month bans for then Australia captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner.

India leads the four-match series 2-1 and needs only to avoid a loss in Sydney in the last match starting Thursday to secure its first ever test match series win on Australian soil.

Clearly, neither Paine nor Pant wanted any negative sentiment to fester.

Paine referred to the Instagram post on Wednesday, commending Pant's good humor.

"He was a good sport about it, and he is on the field too," the Australian Broadcasting Corp. quoted Paine as saying. "A fair bit's been made of a bit of banter between two wicketkeepers that's been pretty light-hearted."

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