I told you Glenn Maxwell was something special

Geoff Lemon Columnist

By Geoff Lemon, Geoff Lemon is a Roar Expert

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    Glenn 'Rocks and Diamonds' Maxwell will always bring the surprises. (AAP Image/Mark Dadswell)

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    Humans project their unhappiness onto external objects, then imagine those objects to be the cause. Cricket fans use an object named Glenn Maxwell.

    I’ve had my share of digs at the man. On Roar Radio’s coverage of Australia’s tour to India last March, the whole commentary team lined up to make jibes about Maxwell’s selection.

    Admittedly, having a green limited-overs player open both the batting and the bowling in a Test match makes you want to comment. Having it happen under Shane Watson’s captaincy meant you can’t resist commenting. Having that captain mess around the incumbent opener when the captain has recently stated that he wants the opener’s job, and you’re duty-bound to comment.

    So we had some fun with Maxwell, who made no runs but took a decent stack of expensive wickets with some ripping off-breaks.

    But from that time on, as Maxwell has made himself a fixture in Australia’s limited-overs sides, there has been a deeper antipathy expressed by many commenters toward the man, a disgruntlement not with him, but with things that he is perceived to represent.

    These are the kind of things that older people don’t like about young people, that Test people don’t like about one-day people, that people who don’t earn a million dollars in six weeks dislike about people who earn a million dollars in six weeks.

    It’s hard to like a human who is nicknamed ‘The Big Show’. It’s hard to like a human with that kind of David Brent goatee thing that looks like an angry hamster has latched onto his face.

    It all became a lot easier when Maxwell had a shave and mentioned on TV that he hated his nickname, which had been forced on him by annoying boofheads who knew he hated it. This had the dual effect of provoking James Brayshaw into saying “The Big Show” once a minute during his whole evening’s commentary, and of demonstrating who the real toolbox was in this scenario.

    Nonetheless, Maxwell still represents everything that disgruntles a rarely gruntled type of fan: money, media, power, reverse sweeps, hype, high strike rates, and all the LED-bail accessories of the T20 age.

    By extension, his own sporting pedigree has been derided. He’s a slogger. He’s a dart-chucker. He’s not a real cricketer. Sure, he’s dynamite in the field, but that’s the first refuge of someone who can’t do anything else.

    A real batsman doesn’t clear the front leg. A real batsman follows boundaries with singles. A real batsman has gears, damn it, gears, and Maxwell doesn’t have enough. He is a fixie, a goddamned hipster bike, and we hate those jerks with their sailor tattoos and their collections of crappy old stuff passed off as ‘vintage’.

    What we may have missed, through the thicket of our certainty, is a) that Test cricket is old and archaic enough to be considered vintage, thus is due for a hipster revival, and b) that Glenn Maxwell is an incredibly special talent in his own right. A correspondingly special career is in the works.

    If you saw his innings in Australia’s T20 World Cup match last night, you’ll know what I mean. It’s easy to look at the scorecard and read 74 from 33 balls. It’s easy to notice seven boundaries and six sixes, and think that the bloke must have collared a few.

    The detail is that Australia were chasing 191. The detail is that Maxwell walked to the crease after one over, in which David Warner and Shane Watson had each hit a four and got out. The detail is that Australia’s senior top-order hitters, their Test players, their blue chip stocks, went bust. Then Maxwell went boom.

    After three sighters for a single, he hit a couple of fours from left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar. Then he missed a sweep and a reverse and was twice hit on the pad. Pakistan licked their lips and brought on Saeed Ajmal, the world’s premier spinner.

    Maxwell put Ajmal’s third ball into the Pakistan dugout, and his sixth into the top deck of the stand.

    He glided pace through third man and slapped it over point. He showed Shahid Afridi what it’s like to bowl to Shahid Afridi. He had 30 from his first 12 balls, then combined with Finch to take 30 more from Bilawal Bhatti’s first over.

    That brought up his half century, equalling the Australian record of 18 balls. By the time he fell, Australia should have cruised home – 66 runs needed from 50, with seven wickets left. They had started the innings needing nearly 10 an over. They didn’t, but you can’t blame Maxwell.

    Above all, his shots were beautiful. Crisp, precise, barely a mis-hit among them – this was no Kevin O’Brien coming out for a bludgeon. It was surgical.

    For me, Maxwell announced this trait in the last game of Australia’s ODI tour of India last October. We all knew he could hit, ever since that record-breaking half century for Victoria in early 2011, but this was something else. Big scores abounded all series, but India saved the best for last, setting 384 to win. Australia slumped to 4 for 74, taking 101 balls to get there.

    Enter Maxwell, hitting 42 runs in sixes alone as he racked up 60 from 22 balls. Suddenly the team felt like they were back in the match, and while they fell short, James Faulkner was inspired to produce the fastest ODI century by an Australian, and got his team far closer than they had any right to be.

    It was in that innings that the character of Maxwell’s play stood out. While there may be better batsmen, I don’t think I’ve ever seen cleaner strikers of the ball than Maxwell and Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan is a four-hitter, his shots are cuts through backward point or driven straight. Maxwell’s land in someone’s beer.

    But however far they go, he barely seems to be hitting them. He waits for the spinners for eternity. He stands still and upright against pace. There is some foot shuffling, perhaps a swivel, a thwack like a cleaver through a Granny Smith, and a ball launches into the night sky.

    It is this that Australians can look forward to. Maxwell is not a happy slogger, a wing-and-a-prayer kind of player whose manic attack mode pays off one game in 20. He’s a calculated risk-taker, with the ability to back that risk up. And it turns out he’s very, very good at it.

    That may not make him the ideal Test batsmen, and for those upset by the fact, we can only apologise. What it will do is win a hell of a lot of limited-overs games for Australia. And as we saw last night, that even makes the losses entertaining.

    Geoff Lemon
    Geoff Lemon

    Geoff Lemon is a writer, editor and broadcaster covering sport for The Roar, The Guardian and ABC, as well as writing on politics, literature and history for a range of outlets.

    He tweets from @GeoffLemonSport.

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    The Crowd Says (58)

    • March 24th 2014 @ 7:47am
      Avon River said | March 24th 2014 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      Enjoyed the chase. His (Maxwell) timing made it look easy. The struggles of others screamed otherwise.
      Finch did a job but never looked ‘on song’ as couldn’t even put it away off his legs.
      Bailey was just way too meek and his 4 off 9 saw pressure building with every ball.

    • Roar Guru

      March 24th 2014 @ 7:59am
      JGK said | March 24th 2014 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      His wicket yesterday was the beginning of the end for Aust.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 9:52am
        AlanKC said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        Yes it was but, if you’re blaming him for the failure to reach the target, it’s a bit rough.

    • March 24th 2014 @ 8:45am
      Ken said | March 24th 2014 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      My takeouts from that game were as follows;
      Maxwell always looks a better batsman when he forgets the smart-arse shots and just plays cricket.
      The fielding was poor to say the least.
      The bowlers looked rusty.
      Hogg & Bollinger are just not good enough at this level and throw in a dropped catch each and they really sucked.
      If age is no barrier to selection, why is Bollinger selected ahead of Lee ?
      Bailey spent the night in the field with a stupid grin on his face and didn’t seem to care that the standards were slipping.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 9:11am
        Nudge said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:11am | ! Report

        Although Bollinger was our best bowler last night by a fair way

        • March 24th 2014 @ 9:27am
          Ken said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:27am | ! Report

          Which tells you how badly the others bowled.

          • March 24th 2014 @ 10:01am
            Nudge said | March 24th 2014 @ 10:01am | ! Report

            I agree ken the others were ordinary but Bollinger was very good. 4 overs for 28 or so on a postage stamp ground with a lightening outfield shows the selectors got it right again

        • March 24th 2014 @ 9:30am
          Ducko said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:30am | ! Report

          I agree. I thought he was our best bowler in that game. Sure, he dropped a catch (off a no ball), as did Hogg & Hodge.
          Speaking of Hogg & Hodge, I’m not so sure if the old guys (including Haddin) should have gone to the World Cup. Perhaps Doherty,Lynn & Whiteman would have been better choices?

          • March 24th 2014 @ 11:15am
            Ken said | March 24th 2014 @ 11:15am | ! Report

            Inclined to agree. It seems to me that Haddin has been pretty poor with the bat since the Ashes ended.

            • Columnist

              March 24th 2014 @ 1:32pm
              Geoff Lemon said | March 24th 2014 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

              I’d have given Haddin a rest, but I guess he wants to play as much as he can after his time out of the team. Hodge is there for a very specific role, and he’s a good pick. Hogg was the best spinner in the BBL.

              • March 24th 2014 @ 6:38pm
                Ducko said | March 24th 2014 @ 6:38pm | ! Report

                Well Hodge wasn’t a good pick on last night’s effort. His job is to bring the team home, which didn’t occur last night. Not going to judge him on one match because obviously he can’t do it every time, but will be keeping an eye upon future performances.

              • March 24th 2014 @ 7:56pm
                ozinsa said | March 24th 2014 @ 7:56pm | ! Report

                Haddin’s selection is puzzling. He’s really struggled to make an impact in the short stuff for a while. He was at the wicket when Hodge won us the 7 over battle in SA but hasn’t hit a boundary that i can recall for a long time. There were 2-3 young keepers who looked capable of scoring runs quickly in the BBL and I contend that great keeping is less important that boundaries in T20.

          • Roar Guru

            March 24th 2014 @ 5:24pm
            Christian D'Aloia said | March 24th 2014 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

            Lynn certainly should have been there. I was very surprised he wasn’t selected in the side after playing so well in those T20 games against England.

    • Columnist

      March 24th 2014 @ 9:11am
      Ryan O'Connell said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      I’ve always been happy to accept Maxwell for what he is: an extremely talented cricketer, whose skills make him a valuable limited overs player. But one that will drive you insane due to the unorthodox way he plays cricket, which means he’ll frustrate you by getting out playing an extremely risky shot at an important time of the game – which has the dual effect of ensuring his Test aspirations remain dicey, at best.

      Some seriously impressive hitting last night, geez.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 9:54am
        Nick Inatey said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Agreed.

        It was a great innings last night, but SO frustrating to see him commence his innings with a botched reverse sweep. Half an inch to the left and it would have been curtains.

        He plays much better when he just plays each ball on its merits.

        • Roar Guru

          March 24th 2014 @ 6:30pm
          Jack Smith said | March 24th 2014 @ 6:30pm | ! Report

          Very true. Once he gets his mental state in check and know when to play which shot, and in context of the game, he well could be 7th or 8th in test lineup. Big hitter and spinner (which, albeit slowly, he is getting better at)

      • March 24th 2014 @ 10:49am
        Ruminate said | March 24th 2014 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        He made it look so damned easier than anyone else! He didn’t get a bowl though, that seemed odd to me. Coulter Nile looked to be the wrong selection, should have gone with Faulkner but I suppose that they were concerned about 3 lefties.

        Bizarre who much the ball swung in the India v WI game when there appeared to be no where near that movement in the Australia v Pak game

        • March 24th 2014 @ 11:29am
          AlanKC said | March 24th 2014 @ 11:29am | ! Report

          I think Faulkner has a hamstring strain.

        • March 24th 2014 @ 11:48am
          Nick Inatey said | March 24th 2014 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          I think David the evening dew may have contributed to the ball swinging just a bit more in the evening game.

        • Columnist

          March 24th 2014 @ 1:34pm
          Geoff Lemon said | March 24th 2014 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

          Faulkner was still injured, he’ll be back for the next game. But I’m not sold on NCN even being in the squad. In every game I’ve seen he’s been too easy to hit.

          • Roar Guru

            March 24th 2014 @ 2:40pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | March 24th 2014 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

            I’m not entirely sold on Faulkners bowling in T20s and ODIs either. In the Australian summer, his main heroics were with the bat, with the ball he was regularly the most expensive bowler in the match for the Aussies.

            None of them could really get it right though. Starc is usually a lot better at getting the yorker in than that, but he was missing it by a mile. Regularly there were full-tosses around knee high. Missing the yorker and instead giving an ankle high full-toss is one thing, but giving it about knee high makes if very hittable, and many of them got hit.

            • March 24th 2014 @ 5:50pm
              broken-hearted toy said | March 24th 2014 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

              The bowling was horrible. Doug was the only one who seemed to have any control. It must have been nerves, but the Akmals batted very nicely for all that. I didn’t expect much from Hogg, he was awful last world T20 too.

              Maxie can play spin better than anyone else in this team. Does no-one else remember his first matches for Aus? In the UAE playing the Pakistan spin bowlers to the manor born.

              Finch is not great against decent spin, plus the conditions track are not in his favour.

              It was an excellent chase but was always going to be hard for any of our other players to start against spin.

      • March 25th 2014 @ 2:39pm
        Jules said | March 25th 2014 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

        Having watched Ajmal single-handedly destroy England in a test series in the UAE a year or two ago, I only watched this T20 to see how the Aussie batsmen looked against quality tricky-elbowed spinners.

        Maxwell looked so much better than everyone else against both the left-arm spinner (who looks very dangerous) and Ajmal, that he’s a shoe-in for the UAE test squad. He looks like he should be a limited-overs only player to me, but if he can do that to Ajmal in those conditions, he should be picked exceptionally for tests in those conditions — he’s a better bet in such circumstances than another plodder who won’t make more than 10 against Ajmal and Co. over four innings. This won’t be lost on the selectors after the trouble that players like Hughes had in India and Maxwell also offers an extra spin bowling option.

        Is it just me or has he got such quick hands that he can play the ball later (like a Lara or, to a lesser extent, Warner or Smith). If so, he needs some schooling from people who now how to construct a test innings (like Clarke) and be given a chance, because he could become a 10 year player. As I indicated in a Doolan-thread a while ago, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but he’s looking good to be our number 6 or 7 in the UAE.

        • March 26th 2014 @ 4:22am
          Broken-hearted Toy said | March 26th 2014 @ 4:22am | ! Report

          He’s played well before in the UAE in ODIs. If he can only control his urge to take a lot of risks he’d be worth taking to the UAE for tests, but I’d be worried that he’d walk out to the middle and try something really stupid before he’d taken a look at the bowling.

    • March 24th 2014 @ 9:55am
      Happy Hooker said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      Actually, I think it was Glenn Maxwell that told us Glenn Maxwell was something special.

    • March 24th 2014 @ 9:56am
      AlanKC said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:56am | ! Report

      I started to warm to him when he said he hated the nickname Wade had given him.

      It was great knock last nigh., I was on my way to bed after the first over thinking it was lost but stayed until Maxwell got out, went to bed thinking there was no way we could stuff it from there. Oops.

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