Since Glenn Maxwell walked to the middle in Delhi at the end of last October during the World Cup, he has batted for Australia in five ODIs and four T20Is. Nine innings, four not out, four centuries, 597 runs at 119 average.
Monster figures already, then factor in the strike rate of 186 – one player scoring north of 11 runs over his own. In a way, his 120 off 55 balls against the West Indies in Adelaide on Sunday was the most perfect of the lot.
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Even for a player who grinds sticks with circus arts, this streak was unrealistic. Not just the numbers but the context, the way each high point grew out should have been impossible.
A little over a year ago Maxwell cut his leg in half so badly that his doctors had serious doubts about his professional career. The injury caused setbacks right up to the World Cup, and is now troubling him.
Going into the World Cup group game against the Netherlands, Maxwell 2023 had a lack of confidence in his body, half a dozen scattered games, no runs to speak of, and a golden duck in his last over. Forty balls later the his fastest World Cup debut in history. An important 41 followed in the high-scoring win over New Zealand.
Two good games, then the next solution: the fall to split open a concrete path through a golf course. Concussion, a week out and a lost game, people blaming him for rust or drunkenness which he had neither.
Maxwell’s bounceback was absurd, that all-time epic against Afghanistan – 201 not out in Mumbai’s humidity to rescue a lost cause with semi-final qualification on the line.
Cramping from that inning bothered him for weeks, and he needed little with the bat in the knockouts. But after the World Cup final, Maxwell still found the reserves mentally and physically to score 104 not out from 48 balls in a T20I against India that none of the title-winning squad was asked to play . He turned another doomed defeat into a victory.
So to today, after his second golf course disaster this time: a hot day in the sun with not enough water and too much beer, making that ratio likely to suffer . It was humiliating to end up in the back of an ambulance and on the front of the newspaper because of poor social decisions, especially when people would be scared before the benign cause of dehydration was identified.
Another player might have been too sheepish to express themselves on the field, but this one is nothing but woolly bowlers.
Basically, Maxwell had to start the narratives with frustration – even as one of Australia’s most criticized players, no one is more unhappy with Maxwell than Maxwell. Trouble because he didn’t find the touch or the gaps he wanted, even through a period as brief as four runs from six balls which is a normal start for anyone else.
Then Maxwell clicked, something going right as he slotted the first of his eight sixes, dropping to one knee to hit off-spinner Akeal Hosein into the top tier of the east stand at Adelaide Oval.
From there, it was perfection. Plenty of players score quickly, but Maxwell is different in his range. He doesn’t just settle for the back foot and the ball, although he did that quickly with West Indies Alzarri Joseph. He doesn’t just go ahead and hit straight, although Joseph got one of those too. It wasn’t just the switch that put Hosein on another hundred meter journey.
His hand flicks prove his terrible timing. He bowls the leg side of the fielder, and bends his back knee, turns that leg straight, and angles his hip down towards the outside, creating space to go around the line of the ball. It looks awkward, like a position that could not produce power, until you see the ball flying over backward square leg. Andre Russell wore that. Wide outside off, and he reaches for the ball with every sinew in his hands, down on one knee and fully extended by the time he made contact with Romario Shepherd’s ball. He still cleared the extra cover rope.
Three sixes before his first four, but his placement on the ground is the most exceptional. Russell’s yorker, on the money, angled on middle and off, bound for the woodwork, but Maxwell crosses some other wood, the bat vertical and no follow through, no visible drive, but instead of defending, the ball through the back point. for four. Intentional, confounding. West Indies captain Rovman Powell could only joke: any ball they bowl, he said bluntly, “he usually has a shot for it.”
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Hundreds of T20Is are rare. All Australian women’s players met: five centuries. All Australian men except: five hundred years. Glenn Maxwell: five hundred years. The only player in the world who has as many is Rohit Sharma, and that is from 50 per cent more games.
It’s still a shame that Maxwell never really tried Test cricket, never in Australia. Maybe it didn’t work – but for nationals to have such a unique talent, but never try it? That’s an indictment of the courage and imagination of a dozen years of selectors.
The current national arrangement is the most welcome for Maxwell, whose approach is no longer in doubt. It is unyieldingly supported. He is a better player for having that security from his team, his captain, his coach. But still only in short games.
Imagine if that support extended to Trials over a few years. Maxwell is 35 years old but he is playing the best cricket of his life. He could literally do anything yet.