Star-crossed lovers - Glenn Maxwell and his former franchise - meet today as the Punjab Kings (PBKS) take on the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The relationship between Maxwell and PBKS is complicated to say the least. After his breakout season with the franchise back in 2014, where he scored 552 runs in 16 games at an average of 34.5 and a strike rate of 187.75, the all-rounder's IPL career had stagnated.
A move to the Delhi Capitals didn't work out, and a subsequent return to PBKS saw Maxwell perform even worse than he did during his first stint with the team. The Mohali-based franchise eventually had to let go of their prized asset, who was not only failing but also eating up a significant portion of the team's budget.
But against all odds, a move to the Royal Challengers Bangalore seems to have revitalized Glenn Maxwell's career. He has already scored more than twice the runs he managed last year, in less than half the games. His strike rate has rocketed to 145.75 from the pathetic 101.88 it was in IPL 2020, and he's hit 10 sixes in this tournament - 10 more than he did in the last campaign.
What makes Glenn Maxwell successful at RCB?
It's difficult to pinpoint what has changed for Glenn Maxwell, but something clearly has. The most plausible explanation is that he isn't 'The Big Show' at RCB. In other words, Maxwell isn't the guy around whom the team is built.
At PBKS, the expectations on Glenn Maxwell were overwhelming. KL Rahul was eating up balls at the top of the order, and Maxwell was entrusted with the unenviable task of injecting momentum into the innings in the middle overs. To top it all off, his massive price tag meant he had to show at least some consistency.
But at RCB, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers are the pivots around which the batting order revolves, with young Devdutt Padikkal playing an important role as an opener as well. Glenn Maxwell is a member of the supporting cast - an important member, for sure - but he isn't the lead actor.
More importantly, RCB have shown immense faith in their new signing. The team management has consistently used him above De Villiers, and Maxwell plays with the knowledge that there is batting of the highest pedigree to come.
How can PBKS stop the Glenn Maxwell juggernaut?
An unorthodox player like Glenn Maxwell doesn't have many glaring weaknesses, but it's possible for PBKS to formulate plans for the explosive batsman. Having been part of PBKS for a number of years, Maxwell's shortcomings will be well known to KL Rahul and Anil Kumble.
Perhaps the most obvious hole in Maxwell's game is his technique against leg-spin. He has historically struggled to pick the googly, and the lack of restraint in his approach has always brought attacking bowlers into the game. The usual strategy is to stay leg-side of the ball and free his arms to hit sixes straight down the ground or over the leg-side, but accurate bowling certainly unsettles him.
If he doesn't get anything in his arc, Glenn Maxwell tries to manufacture runs by bringing out the switch hit and the slog sweep. And while this may seem unorthodox and risky, few play these shots as well as he does. Still, it gives PBKS a fighting chance to get Maxwell out.
Young Ravi Bishnoi could be PBKS' trump card against Glenn Maxwell. The Aussie has been dismissed three or more times in the IPL by six bowlers, of which four are spinners - Piyush Chawla, Amit Mishra, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja.
The pattern is evident - Chawla, Mishra and Chahal are three of the best leg-spinners in IPL history, while Jadeja has recorded four bowled dismissals (out of five total) against Maxwell. The strategy for PBKS will be to attack the stumps, as Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni advised Jadeja to do in the previous game.
KL Rahul will want Bishnoi to tempt Glenn Maxwell into an ill-advised shot off a ball that's zoning in on the stumps, and rely on the leggie's variations to undo the batsman from a straight line. If this doesn't work, either due to failures in execution or because of dew, PBKS will fall back on their pace attack to do the trick.
Mohammed Shami hasn't played against Maxwell often in the IPL, but he's had his moments against the all-rounder in international cricket. Arshdeep Singh has operated against destructive batsmen by bowling a wide line, and slower balls might also prove to be crucial. One of Riley Meredith and Jhye Richardson, who would've bowled to Maxwell often in the Big Bash League, could replace Chris Jordan in the PBKS playing XI.
The Glenn Maxwell juggernaut is rolling on in IPL 2021. The 32-year-old will have a point to prove against PBKS, who will hope their former star doesn't add insult to the injury of releasing him by scoring against them. Either way, a fascinating showdown that has all the makings of an IPL epic beckons at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.