IPL 2018: Delhi Daredevils' false prophet
The IPL has always had its share of players who come into the tournament with an enormous amount of hype attached to their names, only to see them crash and burn. International and domestic stars alike have been expected to take the world by storm, only for them to falter at the first sight of trouble.
However, none of them have come close to being the disappointment that has been Glenn Maxwell at Delhi Daredevils this season.
At the end of the auctions, Delhi seemed to be the team to beat. An experienced and hungry captain in the form of Gautam Gambhir, two young Indian hopes in the form of Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant, a bowling attack capable of ripping any batting to shreds - Trent Boult, Mohammed Shami and Kagiso Rabada.
But at the centre of it all stood Glenn Maxwell. Riding on the back of a solid Big Bash 2017/18 in which he had scored 299 runs in 9 matches, at an average of 37.37 and a strike rate of 150+, the Australian was set to have a bounce back in the tournament he had once set on fire.
For those unaware, Maxwell was the star of the 2014 IPL season, when he burst onto the scene with Kings XI Punjab. With David Miller providing able support, Maxwell reached 552 runs in the tournament and finished as the third highest run-getter. Consequently, KXIP ended up as the runner-ups in that edition.
Coming back, the BBL was not the only highlight of Maxwell's journey prior to the IPL. As part of the Trans-Tasmanian T20I Tri-series, Maxwell scored a blistering 103 not out off 58 balls, becoming the sixth cricketer to score more than one international century in T20Is.
So, what went wrong?
For starters, DD as a team have had the worst of fortunes - Gambhir's dropping out of the squad owing to poor form, Rabada and Morris being ruled out of the tournament due to injuries, Shami's controversy-ridden entry into the tournament affecting his game.
Then, there was the issue of position. Instead of playing at his favored No.4 position, Maxwell was pushed to play one slot below because of Rishabh Pant's spectacular form this season. This meant that Maxwell came at junctures where he had no time to get his eye in and had to slog the ball from the get-go.
Out of his 169 runs in 12 innings for the Delhi side, 41 runs (3 innings) have come when opening - at an average of 13.66 and a strike rate of 124.24. 12 (1 innings) and 18 runs (2 innings) have come from the No.3 and No.4 positions respectively, while 89 runs have come when batting at the No.5 position (average: 17.8; Strike rate: 159).
For any position, these are not stellar statistics and certainly not for a batsman of Maxwell's caliber. When DD's coach Ricky Ponting was asked about this:
"I wish I knew [why he couldn't find form in the IPL]. I have spent a long time with Maxwell over the years," Ponting said. "Only a few weeks before this tournament came around, I spent the triangular series with him with the Australian team. Did a lot of work with him there, he was actually Man of the Series in that tournament coming over here. He was coming here in good form and having played a little bit of T20 cricket."
That's the indigestible truth. It is not easy to pinpoint the exact reason for a batsman's loss of form. "I wish I knew why" is, in most cases, the right and only possible answer.
The good thing is, this season is done for the Daredevils. The trust they put on Maxwell has backfired, and they will hold the wretched wooden spoon until the next year. They now have an important decision to make - to stick or twist with Maxwell.
Assuming Ponting is the coach next season as well, it is hard to see them getting rid of the Victorian. Colin Munro and Jason Roy, who were relegated to the bench this season to accommodate Maxi, will be wanting to prove their worth as well.
What Delhi needs to do is to figure out their starting XI first and the positions of the players first. Then, they will be hoping that their entire squad is fit the next time around. And finally, they will need Maxwell to deliver, and deliver fast.