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IPL 2020: Is '10-crore cheerleader' Glenn Maxwell even an average T20 player?

Glenn Maxwell had the worst IPL season one could possibly have
Glenn Maxwell had the worst IPL season one could possibly have
Sai Krishna
ANALYST
Modified 13 Nov 2020, 19:06 IST
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Former Indian opener Virender Sehwag is as light-hearted off the field as he was destructive on it, but he recently had some scathing words of criticism for Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell.

While naming 5 players who failed to live up to expectations in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020), Sehwag said:

"Glenn Maxwell. This 10 crore cheerleader proved very costly for Punjab. His IPL routine for the last few years has been of shirking from work but this season he broke that record as well. This is what you call a highly paid vacation."

Sehwag has not been the only man to hit out at Maxwell, as a number of former cricketers and experts have slammed the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) man for the abysmal performances that he has dished out year after year. His price tag for IPL 2020 - INR 10.75 crores - caused frustrations among the cricket-watching public to boil over.

Upon closer inspection, it's clear that Glenn Maxwell isn't a great T20 player; in fact, he might even be a distinctly below-average one.


Glenn Maxwell's frankly embarrassing IPL record

Glenn Maxwell has had only one good IPL season
Glenn Maxwell has had only one good IPL season

Over the last three IPL seasons, Glenn Maxwell has played 39 games. And over the course of these games, he has managed only 587 runs, recording averages of 15.42, 14.08 and 31 respectively.

To make matters worse, the "Big No-Show" hasn't scored a single fifty - in fact, 4 of his 6 fifties in the IPL came in his 2014 season, which has managed to deceive people all around the world that Maxwell can be trusted to come good.

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The pattern post that campaign in the UAE has become all too clear. Teams will spend big bucks in the auction on Maxwell, who is perceived as a game-changer who has all the shots in the book. In return, the Aussie will play one (or maybe two) promising innings, and will bowl a couple of overs and take a couple of stunning catches.

But the end product simply isn't there, and game-changer or not, Maxwell is a player who simply cannot be a part of an IPL-winning team.

In 2020, KL Rahul's otherworldly batting exploits (he scored 83 runs more this year than Maxwell has managed over the last 3 seasons combined) and Chris Gayle's introduction saved some face for KXIP, as they finished 6th. Maxwell's strike rate, which is the one statistic that saves him some face, plunged to a pathetic 101.88, and he cleared the boundary ZERO times.

The 32-year-old missed the 2019 IPL, and the Delhi Capitals, who bought him for INR 9 crores ahead of the 2018 edition, finished dead last with him in the team. In 2017, KXIP were the ones to offer Maxwell a roof to sleep under, and they finished 5th in a season where the top four teams were clearly a cut above the rest.

In 2016, the Mohali-based franchise choked on the wooden spoon, with Maxwell contributing 179 runs at an average of 19.88 and hitting only 14 fours apart from 8 sixes.

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In case you had any doubts about what happened in the 2015 season, KXIP finished 8th once again, managing only 3 wins in 14 games and an NRR of -1.435. Maxwell's contributions? 145 runs at 13.18 and a strike rate of 129.46.

Glenn Maxwell has eaten up a significant portion of the team's budget, and has produced numbers that could be put up by any U-19 cricketer in the IPL. He has hoodwinked teams with his performances in the 2014 season, and anyone who stands by him being named among the better T20 players in the world is caught up in the laurels of the past.


Glenn Maxwell's T20I performances more respectable

Glenn Maxwell has been in and out of the Australian team
Glenn Maxwell has been in and out of the Australian team

Glenn Maxwell made his T20I debut against Pakistan in 2012, and although he didn't cross the 30-run mark in his first 17 games in the format, his promise and ability were there for all to see.

And while the Aussie has put in a few world-class performances, such as his 145* against Sri Lanka in 2016, his 103* against England in 2018 and his 113* against India in 2019, his purple patches have been few and far between.

Maxwell has scored 1,609 runs in 64 T20Is, and the majority of these runs have come in spans of 3-5 games interspersed by dry spells. Two particular periods stand out. In a portion of 2016, Maxwell scored 75, 19*, 22, 26, 30, 31, 145*, and 66 in consecutive games. In 2019, he played three innings, scoring 56, 113* and 62.

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These performances have catapulted him to #6 on the ICC T20I batting rankings, which have been kind to him since 2017. But there have been so many matches in between these prolific stretches in which Maxwell has either wasted promising starts in ways that make fans want to tear their hair out, or looked completely bereft of ideas and confidence at the crease.

Moreover, Australia have had some of the best batsmen in the world ahead of Maxwell, and he has never had to adjust to new situations at the international level. Sheltered by David Warner, Steve Smith and Aaron Finch, he has been rudely awakened by the real T20 world that is the IPL.


New problems plague Glenn Maxwell every year

Glenn Maxwell never seems settled at the crease
Glenn Maxwell never seems settled at the crease

Over the years, Glenn Maxwell has been likened to a Swiss Army Knife, which is a potent weapon when in the right hands. His biggest strength has also proven to be his biggest weakness, as he hasn't been able to strike the right balance between innovation and convention.

It sometimes seems like Maxwell has so many shots in his cricketing book that he doesn't know which one to use when. He has become a victim of his own versatility, and the clarity of thought that makes AB de Villiers great for the very same reason is glaringly absent.

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But over the past year or two, various other technical problems have haunted Maxwell. His stance is beginning to resemble Shivnarine Chanderpaul's, with leg-stump becoming more exposed by the day. The front leg has cleared itself to "use the right eye more", completely taking away his off-side play.

Maxwell has always been a leg-side dominant player, with the slog-sweep and hoick across the line being his go-to strokes. And with his legs now parted like the Red Sea, the only ways he can play behind square on the off-side are to either baseball-swat short balls in the general direction or whip out the reverse sweep and hope to not be dismissed playing one.

The unpredictability of Maxwell's stroke-making does hold a certain charm, because you know a shot's coming - just not which one. The ground is his canvas, and he has a number of brushes and shades of colours to paint with gay abandon.

But you get the feeling that there's always something holding him back. The creative juices aren't quite flowing although they are lodged somewhere deep in the crevices of his frontal cortex, and a unique, instinctive player like Glenn Maxwell can't really look elsewhere for inspiration.

The latest technical adjustments are just a flash in the pan. A 32-year-old cricketer who has played a certain way since childhood can't just open up his front leg and expect the rest of his muscles and sensory organs to adjust immediately.

Maxwell's right eye will have to find a less literal way of opening itself up to the red cherry that careens towards it at 140 kmph. Simplicity will have to take over as the bowler runs in with the sole intention of knocking over the so carelessly betrayed leg-stump, replacing the unorthodoxy that is already present in the shot-making.

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Some cricketers do reach their peak very late, and Maxwell is one of those players who has been open about his issues with mental health. He seems to be in a good place now mentally, but his performances on the cricket field are enough to claim that he is at best an average T20 cricketer - at the moment.

He has been in good form for Australia of late, so now might not be a good time to claim that he's anything other than great. But you get the feeling that the bar has been set so low with Glenn Maxwell that below-par is average, par is exceeding expectations, and above-par is nothing short of extraordinary.


Published 13 Nov 2020, 17:00 IST
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