Glenn Maxwell took over as captain of Kings XI Punjab ahead of this year's Indian Premier League (IPL) after the tournament’s most northern franchise had finished dead last in editions eight and nine, and it was the new skipper who led his team to a victory in the first match, which was against Rising Pune Supergiant at their ‘second home’ of Indore.
Winning the toss on a slow-ish and slightly two-paced surface, Maxwell sent fellow Australian Steve Smith’s side in to bat and it proved to be a wise decision with the Kings XI bowlers managed to restrict the visitors to 163.
Axar Patel was the pick of the bowlers conceding just 27 runs off his four overs as well as claiming the big wicket of Ben Stokes. In the field, Maxwell rotated his bowlers well, not allowing the Pune batsmen to get accustomed to any one bowler on a surface that was two paced in nature.
Maxwell would have been thrilled to restrict RPS to under 180 in his first match as captain in any format.
The skipper then led the way with the bat, slamming an unbeaten 44 off just 20 balls with four monstrous sixes.
When Maxwell walked in to bat at the fall of Hashim Amla’s wicket, Kings XI still required 81 runs in just over nine overs. Imran Tahir, Rajat Bhatia and Ben Stokes had bowled a few good overs and stifled the batting leading to the wicket of Amla, and then Axar Patel only a couple of balls later.
With the asking rate climbing, Maxwell delivered in the best possible fashion, and in classic Maxwell style — hammering boundaries and batting at a strike rate well above 200 in a fantastic and calculated innings from the rookie captain.
In his post-match interview, Maxwell said he was thriving with the added responsibility of leadership and enjoyed being the one to lead from the front. This is in keeping with Maxwell’s personality, as the ‘Big Show’ has never appeared to be one who was fazed by pressure or the bright lights. The moniker, which he doesn’t enjoy, is in fact in reference to his liking for the spotlight, which he will have plenty of as captain of an IPL franchise.
Maxwell’s Kings XI were clinical in their opening match victory, bowling and fielding well to restrict the opposition before knocking off the below par total without too much fuss. No doubt bigger challenges lay ahead, which will test the Victorian’s captaincy and leadership.
Despite the relatively comfort of the victory, no doubt all eyes were on Maxwell on Saturday. The man had never captained before and we were all curious how he would lead. Would there be funky fields and radical bowling changes? Would he select a team from left-field? None of these scenarios would be surprising; in fact they would reflect his enigmatic batting.
Certainly in the field there was no funkiness from Maxwell, in fact he used his six bowlers cleverly and utilised his weapons in an effective manner for what the surface required.
It was when Kings XI came to bat that some of Maxwell’s out-of-the-box thinking, which is so often thrilling when he is at the crease, was on show. Maxwell made the unusual decision to push himself and David Miller down the order and send in all-rounder Axar Patel at number four. The logic behind this might have been to use a left-hander to counter Tahir and young leg-spinner Deepak Chahar, but if that was the case then Miller should have been sent in. While Axar is no mug with the bat, he is not a number four and is certainly limited in his stroke play.
Axar was eventually dismissed for 24 off 22 when he skied an attempted slog off Tahir and it’s safe to say the experiment was a failure. Once the powerplay finished, Axar and Amla’s scoring was slowed and the pair struggled to find the rope.
In the end Maxwell’s little experiment wasn’t costly as the skipper ensured there were to be no surprises as he battered the RPS bowlers, but one questions why he wouldn’t want to spend more time at the crease himself and take the time to build into his innings.
Still, day one of captaincy was definitely a pass for Maxwell. Kings XI will be hoping their enigmatic captain can build on the success of their opening night.