Australia captain Aaron Finch has implored his men to do the hard things against India from the start of a summer in which the two teams will meet no fewer than 10 times across three formats, rejecting verbal confrontation as "the easy stuff" called out by the review that damned Cricket Australia's culture in the wake of the Newlands scandal.
Fronting for questions after hearing of CA's final refusal to reduce the bans imposed on Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, Finch underlined the tightrope that Australia's players have been walking more or less ever since, as they seek to redefine the team's reputation while also struggling with the pressures of performance and even tenure in the national team.
Faf du Plessis, the South African captain, had commented on his return home that the Australian team he encountered was trying to play a "different brand" and that it would take around six months for the team to find out what shape their new identity would take. Finch pointed out that South Africa's dominant start to the series had made it hard for his men to place their stamp on the series, but acknowledged that they had been seen as using "abuse" to impose themselves in the past.
"Going hard doesn't mean being verbal or in people's faces," Finch said in Brisbane. "It can be about your body language, your presence at the crease, when you've got the ball in your hand. How you move around the field as a team, diving in the circle and cutting off ones. That's presence and fierceness and that's tough cricket. The verbal stuff's the easy stuff and that gets lost sometimes.
"We're still as intense and desperate to win no doubt. It's about going about that the right way and playing hard is part of the Australian way of doing it. For different people that means different things, it might be the intensity you go about it, it might be your body language. It's not all about verbal and things like that, which people tend to get confused with sometimes. They talk about being tough and aggressive and that means verbal, but I don't see it that way. It's about your presence on the ground.
"I think that's what Australia's always prided itself on in all sport, not just cricket. It's still 100% there - it has been a difficult time of late with the wins not stacking up as we'd have liked, but that can change quickly. Sometimes it can be one innings with the bat, one spell with the ball or a bit of brilliance in the field that can turn a match and a series. We're certainly not far away at all, it's really close."
"It's been difficult mentally more than anything. Being home for two weeks in eight months is tough, so at times that start to wear you down mentally."
With that in mind, there is much focus on how India's combative captain Virat Kohli will handle his team, in what shapes as their very best chance to win a Test series on Australian soil for the first time. While that series does not begin until December in Adelaide, the three-match T20I series will provide some clues as to how the visitors will handle themselves. Finch expected familiar intensity from Kohli, having never experienced anything different.
"Virat plays the way that gets the best out of himself and at times for him that's about being verbal for his team, pumping them up and being right in the contest. He loves that," Finch said. "The verbal won't change whatsoever, what he was referring to was his aggression. Verbal is encouragement for teammates and stuff like that.
"It's not abuse, you see how passionate he is about the game, and it's not just when he plays for India, when he plays for anyone it's the same. In terms of verbal it's not going to change at all, it'll still be fierce and he'll have a presence out there, but whether it's banter or a bit of sledging here and there I don't expect that.
"Most of the Indian guys have been here before and know what to expect, so with so much cricket being played these days its probably not as foreign as what it was going back some time. There's an opportunity to use that as our go-to, no doubt. It's going to be an exciting series, India are in great form, and we feel as though we've been building really nicely without the results going our way so far. It'll be good fun."
How hard it has been for Australia to show the level of quality required to win at international level has been writ large across their disjointed start to the season, which continues with the T20s ahead of a Test series. While the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon have been firewalled from this last format switch, Finch admitted he had become mentally tired after all the travel he had undertaken this year. At the same time he has struggled to adapt his game from a first Test series, against Pakistan in the UAE, to an immediate white ball switch.
"When you've been playing non-stop it can be difficult to get an amount of training time to work on your game and adjust some things that need a little bit of tinkering," Finch said. "So I think having these last few days to get a couple of really long hits in and feel like my technique was coming back to normal. I don't think I was batting badly in the one day series, a poor shot, chopped on in Adelaide and should've reviewed one in Perth. That kind of stuff happens when you're going through a little tough patch, but it won't last long.
"It's been difficult mentally more than anything. Being home for two weeks in eight months is tough, so at times that start to wear you down mentally. It was great to have two days at home before this, just to refresh, recharge the batteries and be able to come up here with a clear mind again. Being on tour for so long, days can just roll into one. You wake up, you go to training, do your recovery..."
Fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile has already flagged the possibility of liberal use of bouncers against India's top order as they adjust to speedier Australian surfaces. Finch, though, pointed out that India have arguably never toured this country with a stronger pace battery than they currently possess, meaning the hosts would need to be on guard against collapses in all forms.
"When you look at India in the past you might have seen it [pace] as a bit of a weak link, but now i think they have every base covered through their list," he said. "That's going to go a long way to deciding the games as well, who plays better in the Powerplay. Whether they go with the finger spin or with the quicks who can move the ball, it's going to be a good contest. In terms of our batting it's just about trying to minimise that damage when it does happen.
"I think when a new batter's come in they take a little bit of time to get a partnership going or its back-to-back wickets. In T20 that's where you lose a lot of your momentum. They talk about it being a 10-run swing per wicket, so if you keep losing back-to-back wickets it can stall your momentum. It's about making sure we're as sharp as we can be when we first come to the wicket and make sure we're communicating well with our partner and getting into partnerships. By doing that, it's where you're putting pressure back on."
Batting solidity and partnerships are two of the hard things that Finch has in mind for his team. How readily Kohli's India will allow a weakened Australia to achieve them regularly is another matter.