AXMAN!

Glenn Maxwell... the Orange Cap fits and how!-K.R. DEEPAK

Glenn Maxwell’s human, yes. But we have our doubts when he’s on song, writes Priyansh.

Of all the Glenn Maxwell stats thrown at you recently, you surely haven’t been reminded of this. His first-class average, after 46 innings, is 41.04. Not exceptional but neither is it anywhere near mediocre. Dumb slogger, chancy, T20 expert and whatever else some may call him, Maxwell is not hindered by any of these pejorative nicknames.

In fact, there’s an interesting story that explains the Australian all-rounder’s ability and energy.

“I was actually a bit lucky because I had a best friend who was in the same cricket team and we were very competitive. At that time we were of similar abilities. And we both played cricket as 14-year-olds and we spurred each other on. I was just trying to hit fours and sixes, and just trying to hit the balls as far as I could. We both opened the batting and we had a competition to see who would score faster. I think having a friend like that, who pushes you all the way from when you are young, that helps the development as well,” said Maxwell in an interview to the Alternative Cricket website.

This desire to deposit the ball in faraway territories has been manifested like never before during this season’s Indian Premier League.

Yet, before the Melbournian vowed crowds with his colourful show in the Kings XI Punjab jersey, he had provided a glimpse of the fury he was about to unleash. Unfortunately, the brilliance was overshadowed by Australia’s ineptness as the side crashed out of the World T20 in the group stage in March.

Nevertheless, Maxwell’s knocks of 74 and 45 against Pakistan and West Indies, respectively, caught the eye for the savagery they spread. They were also noted for their inventiveness.

Maxwell’s penchant for the unusual makes him a development pack in the evolution of batting. T20 cricket has accelerated and, indeed, demanded such innovation.

While Virat Kohli continues to perfect batting for the purists and others who swear by technique, the likes of Maxwell and AB de Villiers seek to add tools to the skill of batting.

Virender Sehwag (standing) teh dest dasher that India has ever had, is now Maxwell's (first from left) team-mate in the KXIP team. The opener reckons that Maxwell is much better that he (Sehwag) ever was.-K.R. DEEPAK

The South African is a freak of nature. De Villiers functions at a higher level than Maxwell and is a more complete batsman. But while aiming to match the AB standard, Maxwell develops tools that seem to serve him the best.

The Australian’s eagerness to widen his repertoire of shots finds its origins in his formative years, he revealed in the aforementioned interview.

“For me, growing up, I would practice every different shot in the book, and try to invent new shots. I thought innovations in the game were entertaining and they sort of grabbed me a little bit. I was watching a series — I think South Africa versus Australia — and Jonty Rhodes was reverse-sweeping Shane Warne. I thought that was incredible, watching that. This is amazing!”

The previous sentence has been uttered time and again over the past month as Maxwell has torn bowling attacks asunder.

While his desire to be different breeds excellence, Maxwell’s supreme self-confidence is equally responsible for his success. As he says, “I always feel that I can take down a bowler regardless of the situation. For me, it is about not backing down. I won’t go back in my shell for a couple of overs. I will attack, and hopefully that will bring more bad balls. Then they will go and search for something, and then will play back into my hand.”

The belief in his ability to hit sixes at will has, perhaps, been harnessed on golf courses across the world.

Maxwell is an avid golfer and one shouldn’t be surprised to learn that. After all it’s another sport that values power to swing the ball away, albeit not always.

While Maxwell is not a power hitter in the Chris Gayle mould, he is a fitter athlete. The West Indian is almost forced to play the way he does. Gayle seems to avoid running on purpose and, hence, enjoys his boundaries. Maxwell cherishes them the same but he can harry the opposition by running his runs quickly as well.

Another brave destructor, understandably, is smitten by the Australian’s style of play. Recently, Virender Sehwag could not hide his admiration for Maxwell.

“I was not that destructive (like Maxwell). I was a bit, but not that much. The kind of form he is in, it is so difficult to stop him. Nothing matters to him — the bowlers or the fielders or the boundary. I felt like he was playing book cricket and every time he opened a page, it was a four or six.

“I don’t think he is worried about his game; he’s more worried about golf and practises more golf than cricket. He just goes out there in the middle, gives his 100 percent out there and comes back happily with whatever he gets.”

For being allowed to display his capabilities in full, Maxwell should be grateful to Sanjay Bangar. As a batsman, the KXIP coach was noted for his doughtiness and not flamboyance. Yet, as head coach, Bangar hasn’t been shy to posit Maxwell at number three or four in the batting line-up.

While the Australian was earlier seen as a finisher, now he is allowed to bat for the majority of the innings and pulverise the opposition. This decision has proven to be a masterstroke, as KXIP’s results show.

One of the major reasons behind the decision’s success has been Maxwell’s positive negotiation of the spinners. While he may not seem to be the most technically sound batsman, his confidence has enabled him to play the tweakers with little or no fear on subcontinent tracks. While Maxwell’s mastery of R. Ashwin has been well-documented, one would do well to remember his debut ODI series.

Facing a phalanx of quality Pakistani spinners led by Saeed Ajmal in Dubai, Maxwell was a revelation. Australia won the series 2-1 thanks to the all-rounder’s 38-ball 56 in the decider.

Unfortunately, considering the kind of success experienced recently by Maxwell, many would expect him to produce the same fare every time. Such are the expectations borne by batsmen capable of producing spectacles.

“Some people will go against me for not making runs in a T20 game that is just seven overs long. What do you expect? I’m not going to make runs every time I go out to bat either!”

He’s human, yes. But we have our doubts when he’s on song.