Glenn Maxwell must play in the Ashes

Edward L'Orange Roar Pro

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    If Glen Maxwell is overlooked for the opening Test of the upcoming Ashes series, it will be a snubbing at which even Usman Khawaja would blush.

    Since returning to the Test team, in India earlier this year, Maxwell has averaged 37 from eight innings, including a century in India.

    David Warner averaged 43.25, thanks to back-to-back centuries in Bangladesh. Matt Renshaw averaged 18. Steve Smith is the sole batsman to average over 50, with 63.71, largely down to his 178* in Ranchi. Peter Handscomb averaged 43.83, thanks to a 72*.

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    Finally, Mathew Wade, the only other batsman to play all four games, averaged 29 from seven innings.

    Maxwell sits comfortably in the middle of these averages, above Renshaw and Wade, but below Smith, Handscomb and Warner. This is perfectly respectable from a player just returning to the Test setup.

    Also of note was Maxwell’s moderate strike rate of 56.80. Compared to the six innings from his previous stint, where his strike rate was 70.18 and he averaged 13.33, it is clear he has matured and improved.

    In the three seasons since Maxwell was last dropped from the Test team, in October 2014, Victoria, have won all three comps. Unfortunately, during that time other international duties meant that Maxwell only played a total 15 innings for the Bushrangers: one in 2014-15, nine in 2015-16, and five in 2016-17.

    However, he scored 545 runs at the respectable average of 41.2. He was in and out of our ODI and T20 teams during that time and did not have much time to settle, but during the 2015-16 season, in which he played six matches, he averaged 56.

    Smith’s reluctance to bowl Maxwell, even in ODIs, is well documented. Nevertheless, under Smith’s Test captaincy, Maxwell has bowled 30 overs for one wicket – the rate of a handy part-timer.

    This alone, of course, is no reason to include him in the team, but combined with his excellent fielding and on-field presence, Maxwell is a useful player to have.

    However, the Australian set-up seems to have an obsession with a pace-bowling allrounder, as evidenced by the persistence with Mitch Marsh. We like to have three pace bowlers, one spinner, and an allrounder to take the pressure off the quicks.

    This not necessarily how a Test team should be constructed, the preference for a pace-allrounder perhaps being related to the toothless pitches produced in Australia these days.

    But with the Gabba probably being the country’s best all-round pitch, and the second match a day-nighter, our bowlers should be able to manage even if the pitches are roads. This being the case, Maxwell deserves his shot.

    Glenn Maxwell bowling against Pakistan

    Photo: AAP image

    As a brief example of what Maxwell could bring, simply look at his match against Bangladesh in Chittagong.

    In the first innings he scored a patient 38. He batted for two and half hours, facing 98 balls, at his slowest-ever strike rate of 38.8.

    In the second innings, with Australia pushing for the win, in just 20 minutes, Maxwell smashed 25* from 17 at 147. This kind of variation, if he can manage more high scores, is what makes him such a valuable cricketer.

    It was not always so. This last knock is what we have expected in the past, except the next ball he would probably shank, attempting a switch-hit-reverse-something and be caught on the boundary.

    Maxwell is a skilful athlete with an impressive array of shots, a good eye, and world-class fielding. So it has never been a lack of skill that has dissuaded people from favouring him, but rather a certain lack of temperament.

    However, since his last run in the Test team, his shot selection and excitability have been somewhat tamed.

    Maxwell has the ability to play the role of not only the match-winning basher, but also the steady number five or six.

    His performances in India, and steady showing in Bangladesh, mean he deserves a chance to start in at least the first two Ashes Tests.