It was an epic fall of sorts for Glenn Maxwell when he was left out of the Australian one-day squad for the tour of Sri Lanka last month, the ignominy of which he suffered for the first time since making his debut in 2012.
For someone who was awarded the ‘Australian ODI Player of the Year’ earlier in January, the non-selection marked what is often described as the lowest point of one’s career for Maxwell. For the first time, the selectors had run out of patience with the ‘Big Show’, who has been hailed as one of the most innovative batsmen of his era.
Therefore, fellow Victorian Aaron Finch’s finger injury that ruled him out of the T20I series against Sri Lanka was a blessing in disguise for Maxwell, who then went on to deliver the goods in ruthless fashion, albeit with help from some listless bowling by the Sri Lankans.
It was a quintessential show of destruction by the 27-year-old as he used his choice weapon of the reverse-sweep to great effect. After being accorded the honour of facing the first ball of the innings by captain David Warner, who had backed him all through the tough times, Maxwell started off calmly with a couple of dots.
However, a couple of boundaries and a reverse-swept six later, ‘Maxi’ seemed to show glimpses of old self that helped him hog the limelight in the 2014 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well as the 2015 World Cup.
Not taking any credit away from Maxwell for his blistering innings, the hosts were quite lackadaisical in their approach with the ball. The deliveries were more often than not served up to the batsman to go for a wild swing or the nonchalant reverse hit.
Kasun Rajitha had a forgettable third appearance in international cricket, leaking 46 runs from three overs, while all-rounder Thisara Perera attempted variations that hardly worked, giving away 58 from four while getting a consolation wicket off the last ball of the innings.
In the carnage that lasted 65 deliveries, Maxwell not only brought up his first T20I ton in just 49 balls, but also took the game away from the opposition by guiding his side to the joint-highest T20 total (drawing level with Royal Challengers Bangalore’s 263/5). He could have even broken Finch’s record for the highest individual T20 international score, had it not been for Travis Head hogging the strike in the last couple of overs.
Sri Lanka simply did not have a chance thereafter, even though the likes of Dinesh Chandimal put up another fighting performance as the rot continued for the hosts since their historic whitewash of the Tests.
Having digressed a tad, let us go back to Maxwell and the impact that his latest blitzkrieg has made on the current scheme of things in Australian cricket. Much like his career so far, Maxwell’s run this year has been something of a roller-coaster.
After a consistent run in the one-day series against India at home, Maxwell encountered one of his worst slumps, one that made his fans question his ability at the top-level yet again. Fans aside, even the man himself had lost some of his confidence before getting a recall into the limited-overs side.
“I had doubted a fair bit about my ability at this level and to come out and strike the ball like I did today was really pleasing,” Maxwell was quoted as saying according to cricket.com.au after Australia strolled home at a canter, handing their opponents their worst-ever T20I loss in an 85-run thumping.
However, Maxwell sent out a timely reminder that he is not someone to be written off, with his entertaining display on Tuesday, and now may very well go on to fulfill a long-term desire of opening the innings alongside the likes of Warner wearing the canary yellow.
The national selectors might have already announced a squad sans Maxwell for the ODI tour of South Africa that is to take place later this month, but the think-tank will have to rack their brains out in the next couple of months to come up with the ideal combination at the top of the order.
Finch’s recent 18-ball fifty in Dambulla in particular, and a decent run of form in general for the most part this year makes him a worthy candidate to open the innings along with Warner. Usman Khawaja, another contender for a shot at the top of the order, had recently struck 98 in the Caribbean tri-series after replacing an injured Warner in the opener’s slot. And then there’s Maxwell’s latest.
While there is a plenty of thinking to be done on that front for the selectors, one cannot deny the fact that Maxwell very well appears to have cemented his spot at the top of the order, even if it holds true only for a couple of tournaments at most.
However, questions over his consistency with the bat, which was the primary reason given by chief selector Rod Marsh for his axing, still persist. Maxwell has shown that he is indeed the ‘Big Show’ when it comes to certain situations, conditions and even particular matches. It’s time he justified his nickname by performing over a longer period of time.
Can he persist with the bat over the Australian summer that is to follow? Let us first find out if he can do a repeat of his fireworks in the 2nd T20I in Colombo.