Failing in the glaring spotlight of a World Cup has derailed many an international cricket career and Glenn Maxwell is now looming as the latest victim of this curse.
Despite averaging nearly 50 in the past two Sheffield Shield seasons, having a first-class average of 40, and offering added value with his handy bowling and elite fielding, Maxwell is not considered one of the top 25 Test options in Australia.
The all-rounder was left out of the 25-man squad for the Australia versus Australia A four-day match starting on Tuesday. Australia’s chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns, said while announcing this squad that Maxwell would be “really disappointed” with his World Cup campaign.
It was a strong hint that Maxwell’s flop in that tournament had cruelled his Test ambitions.
While I wouldn’t have had Maxwell in my Ashes squad, the fact he’s not even ranked in the top 25 cricketers in Australia suggests his hopes of building a Test career are slim while Hohns and Justin Langer are in charge.
The Victorian will soon turn 31, which means his ODI career also could be in jeopardy if Australia now decide to concentrate on picking players young enough to compete in the next World Cup.
Ironically, being dumped from the 50-over side might be the only thing that can revive Maxwell’s Test career.
His regular presence in Australia’s white-ball teams over the past five years has limited his exposure to first-class cricket.
More than eight years after making his first-class debut, Maxwell has played just 63 matches. As a comparison, Matt Renshaw is eight years younger than Maxwell yet has played 56 first-class games. That’s partly because Renshaw has had minimal white-ball commitments.
Maxwell is unlikely to earn another crack at Tests by making, say, 400 runs at 50 in five Shield matches this summer. He needs to pile up a 900-plus run Shield season to make his claims hard to ignore. That hasn’t been possible in the past because of Maxwell’s white-ball commitments.
Since he debuted for Australia seven years ago Maxwell has, on average, played just 4.5 Shield matches per season. To earn a regular Test spot playing so little Shield cricket is extremely difficult – particularly when you are not one of the golden boys in regards to Test selection.
In recent years it has seemed like the selectors have looked for any excuse to pick certain players and any reason not to select others. The likes of the Marsh brothers have been picked repeatedly with flimsy justification. It has been easy for them to ascend to the Test team and then difficult for them to be dumped.
Meanwhile, players like Maxwell and Joe Burns have had to work hard to get opportunities in the baggy green, only to be dropped after performing well.
Less than two years ago Maxwell was having his second run in the side. Over those four Tests in Asia, where so many batsmen have floundered, he averaged 37 with the bat and scored a rare ton by an Aussie in India.
That century in Ranchi was not scored at a sprint, it was not laced with audacious strokes. Maxwell the red-ball batsman and Maxwell the white-ball slugger are two different entities. The Victorian showed composure – an attribute too often lacking in his limited-overs career – to grind to 104 from 185 balls. He spent more than four hours at the crease.
At the time it seemed like that impressive stint would see him hold his place for the Ashes series that following summer. Maxwell then made a solid 200 runs at 40 in the Shield, batting at first drop for Victoria before the national squad was announced.
When he was overlooked, it became clear Maxwell was going to have to do more than most Australian batsmen must to earn a spot.
Many in recent years have virtually fallen into the Aussie XI on the back of limited achievements. Maxwell, meanwhile, had done well in a Test stint on the side’s most troublesome continent, been solid in the Shield batting up the order at three, and yet had not only been axed from the starting XI for the 2017 Ashes but also left out of the squad.
That is increasingly looking like the sliding doors moment in Maxwell’s Test career. He was in the form of his life at the time. As Australia won the first Test, Maxwell piled up 278 in the Shield against a strong NSW attack featuring Steve O’Keefe, Trent Copeland, Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger and Moises Henriques – all of whom have represented Australia.
Had that innings come in the previous Shield round, Maxwell would have been in the Ashes XI. Of that, I have no doubt. And against a threadbare England attack on some great batting home pitches, he could have run amok.
Almost two years on, Maxwell is now so far from Test selection that he’s not even in the top 25 options. It may take something remarkable from here to resurrect his Test career.