Is Glenn Maxwell going the Shahid Afridi way?
The Australian big hitter has been under heavy criticism for his failures in recent times.
His stakes were not so high in the cricketing world yet when the Mumbai Indians bought him for a whopping $1 million in the auctions for the IPL 2013. If you had asked cricket fans from Glenn Maxwell back then, they would have told you that they had heard about him but did not remember him too well.
Back then, he was the maverick from Melbourne who could dare to pull a stunt in T20 cricket and at times even get away with it. Maybe an audacious reverse scoop off a fast bowler that looked too incredible to be true. But the very next ball, he would sky a length delivery and walk back to the pavilion.
No one cared much about him. He could hit the ball a mile but he was just another of those meaningless blokes in the T20 firmament who was sure to disappear sooner or later. With his technique or the lack of it, no one gave him much of a chance.
But maverick though he was, Maxwell had a method to his madness. After securing the bumper IPL contract, he soon broke into the Australian Test team that year and went on to establish himself in the ODI side. His strange technique outlived the crazy prophecies and for a few years, he seemed to have carved out a niche of his own.
A string of good domestic performances had ensured that Maxwell rose through the ranks and made it to the national team. In 2011, he had hit the fastest ever half-century in Australian domestic one day cricket, scoring 50 off just 19 balls.
During the early days in his career, he was looked upon as a potential all-rounder as he picked up four wickets in the second ODI against the West Indies in 2013. In the first ODI of that series, Australia had tried him out as an opener and he had responded brilliantly scoring 51 off 35 balls while chasing a miserly total of 71.
In that same year, when Maxwell was becoming a permanent member of the Australian ODI side, he began to prioritize application rather than mayhem to cement his place. Odd occasions such as the innings he played against India in the 4th ODI at Ranchi in October that year showed that he could play a different kind of an innings if need be.
Walking in with the Aussies tottering at 71 for 4, he played a sedated knock working the ball into gaps and stringing together a vital partnership with George Bailey. He scored 92 off 95 deliveries, in the end, taking the team total to 295 for 8 off 50 overs.
And in the 7th ODI at Bangalore, he played a contrasting knock while chasing a mammoth 383 posted by India. His 60 off 22 balls coming at a strike-rate 272.72 almost gave the Indians a scare at one stage. Though the headlines in that match were made by Rohit Sharma who scored a blistering double hundred, Maxwell quietly showed his teammates that he can be a more than useful cricketer.
The message had been sent – Maxwell could play both kinds of knock if need be. Throw in his ability to quietly slip in a few overs and he became a great utility cricketer to have for any side. With his unconventional style and impromptu improvisations, Maxwell soon became an out and out match-winner.
He continued his good performances with a quick fire 93 off 46 balls against Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club in 2014. Going into the ICC World Cup in 2015, Maxwell was a crucial weapon adding firepower to the Australian artillery. He rounded off his preparations with a solid 95 against England in the Carlton Mild ODI tri-series final.
The stage was set for Maxwell to unleash and he did not disappoint. He scored a fast 66 of 40 balls against England in the second match of the World Cup and then followed it up with a devastating 39-ball 88 against Afghanistan. He seemed to have come into his own as against Sri Lanka he blasted his way to a 53-ball 102. Maxwell was doing what everyone knew what he could do, but he was also exceeding expectations.
And in the quarter-finals against Pakistan, he scored a crucial 29-ball 44 that weathered the storm raised by the Pakistani bowlers and helped Australia sail into the semi-final. As the Aussies lifted the world cup trophy that year, Maxwell was an unmistakable hero. He had, like the others in the squad, played his part.