The curious case of Glenn Maxwell against wrist spinners and how he became Yuzvendra Chahal's bunny
"That’s a shocking question. Do you understand in the last three games I’ve hit leg-spinners for six repeatedly? S*** question," Glenn Maxwell said before storming out of the press conference when he was asked about his weakness against spin bowling during the 2017 IPL.
Without a doubt, Maxwell is one of the fiercest hitters of the cricket ball at the moment and he has consistently proved that in the last few editions of the IPL. He is a joy to watch when he gets going and is one of very few batsmen who can take on both the pacers and the spinners with ease.
The last time Australia played an ODI series in India, the Victorian all-rounder made India's R Ashwin his bunny as he kept hitting him out of the ground. Not just Ashwin, a lot of off-spinners around the World have faced the wrath of Maxwell. But, the same cannot be said of the wrist spinners.
Yes, what Maxwell said in the press conference is right. He did hit the leg-spinners repeatedly for sixes in the previous games before getting out bowled to Amit Mishra. But, one cannot ignore the fact that he struggles to play the wrist spinners and the slow left-arm spinners, who take the ball away from the right-handers.
Ever since re-inventing himself as a match-winner in the Indian Premier League in 2014, Maxwell has played 52 matches and got a chance to bat on 51 occasions. Out of those 51 times he batted, he remained not out on five occasions, which means he was dismissed 46 times in the last four seasons.
A majority of the 46 dismissals belong to the fast bowlers as Maxwell was sent back to the pavilion by the pacers on 24 occasions. Out of the remaining 22, he got out to off-spinners and mystery spinners twice each and the remaining 18 innings saw him get out to wrist spinners (14 times) and slow left-arm bowlers (four times).
Amit Mishra has dismissed him the most times (four) followed by Yuzvendra Chahal, Piyush Chawla, Imran Tahir, J Suchith and Ravindra Jadeja, bowlers who have dismissed him twice each. Adding to these bowlers, the Aussie has got out to Rahul Tewatia, Shreyas Gopal, Chinaman bowlers Shivil Kaushik and Kuldeep Yadav once each.
Though he has gotten out to wrist spinners on several occasions, Maxwell has also dominated the breed of spinners. If you are a spinner, you should be bold enough to see the batsman hitting you for a six or two. However, the bowler will eventually prevail if he has the patience to keep testing the batsman on a regular basis.
Thanks to the introduction of technical aspects of the game, a player like Maxwell getting out to a certain variety of bowling would have been discussed in the team meetings ahead of the matches. Most of the times, the right-hander has got out to deliveries that were pitched a bit wider and moved away from him.
The same has been implemented by the Indian team in the ongoing ODI series between Indian and Australia. Both the skipper Virat Kohli and the Indian team's think-tank on the field, MS Dhoni, are very particular in following the pattern against the dangerous Maxwell.
They have made it a habit of bowling both the wrist spinners at tandem whenever the Big Show came out to bat in the first three ODIs and the first T20I. Without a doubt, Maxwell was the only Aussie batsman who seemed comfortable against Kuldeep as he kept picking his variations and hit him out of the ground on a consistent basis.
In spite of that, Maxwell could not change the fact that wrist spinners have been his nemesis.
If Kuldeep doesn't do the job, Chahal will. The leg-spinner from Haryana, not only managed to keep the Kings XI Punjab captain at bay but also got him out on all four occasions in the series and literally made Maxwell his bunny.
Let us take a look at how Chahal foxed Maxwell in the first three ODIs and the first T20I.
First ODI, Chennai
Australia were 29/3 in 6.4 overs; still needed 135 runs off 80 balls for a win.
Soon after Maxwell came in to bat, he lost David Warner. But, that didn't stop him from going after the Indian spinners. He started off by hitting Hardik Pandya for a couple of boundaries in an over before turning his attention to Kuldeep.
He started off the 11th over with a boundary on the second ball and went on to hit three sixes off the next three balls. He faced Chahal for the first time in the match and the leg-spinner managed to bowl four dot balls to start the over. The fifth ball was hit for a six and the next ball, the leggie tossed it up, pitched it a bit wider and made Maxwell reach for the ball.
The batsman did exactly what the Indians would have wanted from him as he mistimed the ball straight to the long-on fielder.
Second ODI, Kolkata
Australia were 85/3 in 17 overs; still needed 168 runs off 198 balls for a win.
With Steve Smith looking good, Maxwell needed to give him company from the other end. Instead, he took on Kuldeep straightaway and dispatched the ball over the ropes twice off two balls in the 20th over.
In the next over, he defended Chahal's deliveries and then Kohli brought on Jasprit Bumrah, who has dismissed him thrice in the IPL, and the right-hander was kept at bay by the pacer.
It looked like a wicket was around the corner as Maxwell was seen losing his patience and Chahal was given the duty to bowl the 23rd over. After playing four dot balls, Maxwell danced down the wicket to take on the young leggie. But, unfortunately for him, he got beaten and the ball brushed his pad before looping up in the air.
MS Dhoni sensed a chance as he collected the ball and you know what happens when the maverick keeper collects the ball and the batsman's feet is in the air. Chahal made it 2-0 against Maxwell in the ongoing series.
Third ODI, Indore
Australia were 224/2 in 37.5 overs batting first on a flat deck.
After getting off to a flying start, Australia lost Aaron Finch for 124. By the time he departed, Steve Smith was set and they had a set platform to push their total to around 370 with the likes of Maxwell, Stoinis etc. to come.
As expected Maxwell came out to bat at number 4 ahead of Peter Handscomb. The moment Kohli saw Maxwell coming out, he brought on Jasprit Bumrah from one end and the Victorian managed just 1 runs off five balls in the over. As expected, Chahal was brought on from the other end and Maxwell managed to face just one ball in that over.
Kohli took a bold call by replacing Bumrah with Kuldeep when Maxwell was still batting and the Chinaman didn't disappoint as he dismissed Smith off the last ball of the 42nd over.
Maxwell then went through a 'brain-fade' as he went for a needless shot off the first ball of the 43rd over and got out once again. Who was the bowler this time? Yuzvendra Chahal.
Right after the Aussies lost Smith, Maxwell danced down the wicket the next ball and Chahal just kept things simple. He invited the batsman by tossing the ball way outside the off-stump just to see Maxwell getting beaten, and Dhoni did the rest.
First T20I, Ranchi
Batting first, Australia were 8/1 in the first over
After the dismissal of Warner in the first over, Glenn Maxwell walked out to bat and looked scratchy throughout his stay at the crease before he got out in a worst possible manner.
As expected Chahal came to bowl and delivered a long hop off his third ball. Maxwell positioned himself for a pull and went ahead with the shot. Unfortunately for the batsman, he failed to connect it properly as he offered Jasprit Bumrah at short mid-wicket an easy catch.
There was nothing special about the delivery but Maxwell just threw his wicket to an easy delivery. Surely, his record against the leggie should have been on his mind when he was facing Chahal.
Yuzvendra Chahal 4-0 Glenn Maxwell
When asked about the strategy for Maxwell, Chahal said that both Dhoni and Kohli wanted him to bowl a turning delivery way outside the off stump.
"Mahi bhai and Kohli bhai told me to bowl him a turning delivery and keep checking his feet. So my idea was to bowl to him outside the off stump. If he hits a good shot then it's fine but if he hits he should hit from outside the off stump because he is strong on the leg side," said Chahal after the first ODI.
Chahal just kept things simple, forced Maxwell to commit mistakes and get out. The right-hander just fell for the leggie's bait and did exactly what the bowler wanted him to do. Maxwell might go on a rampage against Chahal in the remaining matches, but he already got owned by the RCB spinner in the first three matches when there was something to fight for.
With the Aussies having just three (four, if you consider Travis Head) genuine batsmen in their playing XI, the team management would want him to perform in a mature way rather than getting dismissed by a relatively new spinner in the International arena.
With the series already in India's kitty, one might think that the last two matches are mere dead rubbers. But, there will be some intriguing battles taking place between the players from both the teams and Chahal vs Maxwell is one among the battles to look out for.