Hawk Eye

All's well with Maxwell

Glen Maxwell.  

Glenn Maxwell’s arrival at the crease is rarely meant to herald calmness. When he walked into bat against Sri Lanka on Sunday, Australia had just lost two wickets in the space of five deliveries. With 17-odd overs to go, there was a fair bit of work to do.

A calm head was required; Maxwell, many argue, doesn’t possess one. It’s the sort of flawed reasoning that the 26-year-old has battled throughout his career. His sense of calmness is different. Its manifestations contrast severely with our general understanding of that most vital attribute.

There was a moment during his first ODI hundred at the Sydney Cricket Ground that typified the player he has always hoped to become. Sri Lanka’s leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna was wristily flicked over the square-leg boundary for a six; two deliveries later, the ball had been reverse-slapped over point for four runs.

It’s Maxwell’s 360-degree mastery of the cricket field that places him in special company. Some of his shots are outrageous; not just positively. Many coaches would discourage their charges.

"I find red ball (cricket) the easiest because I’ve got so much time. There’s no pressure. I don’t feel any expectation playing in the red-ball game. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone. You can just go out there and do it. Where (in) one-day cricket you’ve got run rates, you’ve got all sorts of things that play on your mind as well as your own form and everything else that’s going on.”

Sadly for Maxwell, his form tailed away in all formats after the 2014 IPL. A 93 against Zimbabwe in August was followed by just one fifty in 14 ODI innings. Even the return to Test cricket was disappointing as he added to the narrative of failure that was scripted in a forgettable series against Pakistan in the UAE. Such was the subsequent contrast in fortunes that even Maxwell's place in Australia’s ODI eleven was put in doubt.

Phillip Hughes' death muddied waters on a personal front. Maxwell's grieving was no longer limited to the playing area.

The tide, however, turned favourably for the all-rounder when the Commonwealth Bank tri-series final was played against England over a month ago. Batting first, Australia had slipped to 60 for four in 17.4 overs. At the crease were Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh. The duo responded by adding 141 for the fifth wicket to rescue Australia; the Victoria player produced a match-winning 95 off 98 deliveries.

Boosted by his batting display, Maxwell took four wickets through his off-breaks. From that day onwards, there have been no questions over his place in the side.

A difficult period had been overcome in time for the World Cup. Speaking after that knock against England, Maxwell said, “Every time I've played for whatever team, I've always tried to win the game for the team, and have the team's best interests at heart. Some people might not think so, some might think all those different shots are a way for me to stand out, which is complete rubbish. I suppose that's the toughest thing to deal with - when people don't understand, and have a crack at you for being something different, apart from the team. I don't want to be known as the 'Big Show' or anything like that - I just want to be known as an integral part of Australian cricket who is hopefully going to take us to the World Cup."

That’s why when he stepped out on Sunday, Australia felt better about itself. Even though four wickets were lost, there was Maxwell. If there was slight apprehension, it was coloured by memories of a distant past. With the century against Sri Lanka, for now, the narratives of failure have been deposited as far as some of Maxwell's longest sixes.

"To make the most of the opportunity shows that I'm taking bigger steps towards being that guy in the middle order that we can actually rely on," said Maxwell after his man-of-the-match performance in the tri-series final last month. The statement rings truer now.

On Maxwell’s slightly shaky foundations, Australia finally rests at ease.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2021 2:29:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/blogs/blog-hawk-eye/article6974716.ece

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