In December 2019, the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) think-tank at the auction table wore bright smiles on their faces and high-fived each other. They shook each other's hands and there was even the occasional hug - all in celebration of the signing of seasoned all-rounder Glenn Maxwell for a huge sum of ₹10.75 crore.
Of course, at that time, the coronavirus pandemic was not in full force and the celebrations were well documented. However, fast forward to about 10 months later, and the side's lackluster performance has raised more than one furrowed brow among the KXIP camp in the United Arab Emirates.
Apart from needing to bear the sweltering UAE heat, KXIP have been forced to sweat over the inconsistencies in performance, a result of which they've plummeted to rock bottom on the IPL 2020 points table.
Sure, the double-barrelled weapon in the form of the opening partnership between KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal has grabbed the headlines, but otherwise, KXIP's performances have been nothing to write home about.
The bowlers - apart from Mohammed Shami and Sheldon Cottrell to some extent - have lacked bite. The middle-order batsmen have either hardly had a hit or found ways to get out when the team needed them to stay at the crease.
With four losses in five games, KXIP's poor show so far begs the question - who can be their knight in shining armour?
The answer is simple - trust Glenn Maxwell to do the job.
Does the ₹10.75-crore price tag mean nothing?
Seldom have we seen players who've been paid in excess of ₹10 crore being underutilized in the IPL.
Ben Stokes, Yuvraj Singh, Jaydev Unadkat and Dinesh Karthik are some of the prime examples, and the most recent additions to this exclusive club from the IPL 2020 player auctions were Maxwell and his Aussie teammate Pat Cummins.
KKR's faith in Cummins' ability was on display during their recent loss to the Delhi Capitals when the Australian all-rounder walked out to bat ahead of regular batsman Rahul Tripathi.
While Cummins did tonk the ball a fair bit and put on a show in Sharjah, KKR's trust in their costliest foreign import should be an example of how KXIP need to make the most of what Maxwell can bring to the table.
Case in point - KXIP have played a total of five matches in IPL 2020 and have batted a total of 100 overs in the season so far, which makes for a total of 600 balls.
And out of the 600 balls, Maxwell has faced only 44 - a mere 7.33% of the total. It's no surprise that the talented all-rounder has scored just 41 runs and is striking at 93.18, a complete contrast from what he is capable of if given more opportunities.
KXIP's lack of insurance if Rahul and Agarwal fail in the same game
There's a simple proposition that could work as a solution to overturn KXIP's fortunes while simultaneously getting Maxwell back into his 2014 UAE form - push him up the order and toss him the ball for a minimum of two overs.
As for the batting side of things, the Australian should be given a chance to express himself at No. 3. While one might argue that this is not a fool-proof plan, Maxwell's promotion to one-drop could prove to be a gamechanger.
So far, in the five matches of IPL 2020, KXIP have scored a total of 907 runs, and 574 of those runs have come from the blades of Rahul (302) and Agarwal (272).
That makes for 63.28% of the total runs scored by KXIP. This is a figure that has come down from what it was (75%) before Nicholas Pooran's convincing returns - a 27-ball 44 (v MI) and a 17-ball 33 (v CSK).
Pooran's late fireworks have added another dimension to KXIP's batting displays, but they still lack assurance if both the openers fail on the day.
And that's where Maxwell could play a key role with all his experience, apart from the fact that he is gifted with an ability to play the field early on and switch into 5th gear as per his will.
Glenn Maxwell's highest strike rate in the IPL is at No.3
As is evident in the data displayed above, Glenn Maxwell has enjoyed most of his success at No. 3, and there's no reason why KXIP cannot use the most explosive batsman in their line-up at the position.
Often this season, the cameras have caught the myriad expressions of Maxwell with his standard Kookaburra inner gloves on in the dressing room, itching to have a go at the bowlers.
There's a decent argument to be made that Maxwell has come in early in a few games and his random swipes have brought about his downfall. But that's not to take away anything from the fact that he needs to be given more of a defined role, and can't be asked to go for broke from the first ball he faces.
As for Mandeep Singh and Nicholas Pooran, the duo have often played the finishing role in their T20 careers, and can be given the same task at KXIP.
Maxwell, on the other hand, has acres of experience having donned many hats. If KXIP manage to channel his skills by giving him a role at No. 3, that could also give the openers a chance to play more freely.
Glenn Maxwell the all-rounder needs to come to the fore
KXIP's issues don't end with the fragilities in the middle order, and it is safe to say that the bowling is more of a concern than the batting.
Their two strike bowlers - Shami and Cottrell - have been fairly consistent, but apart from them, none of the other bowlers have set IPL 2020 on fire. Even the pace duo have had horrible moments, with the left-armer's over to Rahul Tewatia and Shami's over to Kieron Pollard marring their otherwise decent records.
What's interesting to note is that Maxwell has the best economy among all the KXIP bowlers this season - 7.80 RPO over the course of five overs. These figures have even withstood the bashing he took from Sanju Samson during KXIP's match against RR.
KXIP have often had to rely on rather inexperienced spin options in the form of Ravi Bishnoi, Murugan Ashwin, and most recently Harpreet Brar. While Bishnoi has looked effective in patches, he's not been among the wickets.
This is where Maxwell's off-spin could play a role. If the Australian is tossed the ball and can stem the flow of runs, batsmen will need to take on Bishnoi, and we've seen how effective leg-spinners can be in the IPL.
Who scored the most runs in IPL 2020, click here to find out.
All in all, for the frowns in the KXIP camp to turn upside down, Rahul and Co. need to address the gaping holes in their unit. And who better to fit the profile of a match-winner than Glenn Maxwell, who turned heads with his impactful show in 2014?
Lest we forget, Maxwell was given a shot at No. 3 back in 2014, and he repaid the faith invested in him with half-centuries in the first two matches he came in at that position.
KXIP might just need to dust off the cobwebs that have settled on the blueprints from their 2014 IPL campaign and find a way to get the most out of their star foreign import - Glenn Maxwell - once again.
Published 07 Oct 2020, 13:21 IST