If Glenn Maxwell is available for Victoria’s next Sheffield Shield clash, it would beggar belief if coach Chris Rogers left him out of the side.
When asked if Maxwell would return to the Victorian XI before he departs for the IPL, Rogers has noticeably avoided any commitment.
“We are trying to balance up what we want to do as a team and how we can help Glenn as well,” he said earlier this week after a draw with Tasmania at the MCG.
“It’s difficult to manage at times, but we have to do the best we can for the team and individual.”
But it’s not difficult at all.
Maxwell simply has to play if available.
Rogers’ so-called ‘conundrum’ appears to centre on young Victorian middle-order players Matthew Short, 25, and Jake Fraser-McGurk, 18, who are the current number four and five where Maxwell would slot in.
Victoria are unlikely to make the Sheffield Shield final this season, and they are (understandably) keen to continue the development of Short and Fraser-McGurk by exposing them to some of the nation’s best bowlers.
But the Sheffield Shield is not a development competition.
It’s the highest domestic level in the country, and the best players should play.
Further, when said player (who is only 32, mind) is not only comfortably within the best XI but a genuine prospect to play for Australia in three scheduled tours to the subcontinent in 2022, any hint of bypassing him would be baffling.
Victoria’s lack of surety on Maxwell is disappointing.
Rogers missed an opportunity to simply say “if he is available, he plays”, and put the issue to bed.
Maxwell, who has played seven Tests for Australia, has long professed his ambitions to return to the side and any opportunity to play Shield cricket (which are rare given his position in Australia’s ODI and T20 squads) must be taken.
“I’m still very much in the prime of my career. I’m only 32 and there’s still a fair bit in me,” he said a month ago.
“I’m not done and dusted there.”
Alongside Steve Smith, Maxwell is the only current Australian player to have scored a Test ton in India.
While he is unlikely to ever play a Test match in Australia — he has admitted to not being “anywhere near” the upper pecking order for top six spots — an opportunity could arise in Asia where his aggressive style and off-spin could prove vital.
A ‘horses for courses’ selection — and Maxwell knows it.
“There are quite a few subcontinent tours (coming up) and I feel like I could certainly add something to that Test squad if I was selected. I’ll be certainly doing everything in my power to try and get on those tours,” he said.
“If I can somehow get some red-ball cricket at some stage, or some time in Asia to work on my game over there, hopefully that can be enough to get back in the baggy green.”
Which is why every Shield game is important.
While squeezing one four-day game in before the IPL won’t play a defining role in any potential selection on those 2022 tours, it’s clear that he needs to be given every opportunity to play with the red ball.
And Victoria need to play their part.
Short and Fraser-McGurk may well push for higher honours one day, but gifting them a game over Maxwell would be a distinctly poor call.
The issue could be taken out of Victoria’s hands anyhow, should authorities intervene and prevent Maxwell from playing the four-day clash against Queensland on Monday.
Queensland has closed its border to New Zealand, a country Maxwell returned from on Sunday with Australia’s T20 squad. It was not yet known on Thursday if Maxwell would be given the all-clear to play.
Beyond that, Victoria’s next Shield game is against Western Australia on March 25.
For Maxwell, this would also cut things fine given his IPL franchise (Royal Challengers Bangalore) play their first game of the 2021 season on April 9.