Ten days ago, Glenn Maxwell sat in the Melbourne Stars dugout with his head bowed down. He was dejected, embarrassed and still trying to come to grips with the shot he had played that led to catastrophic batting collapse. That led to Stars losing despite being in a solid position. The Big Bash title was snatched away from their hands. A couple of days later, there was a repeat, another mindless shot from Maxwell nearly cost Australia the win in the opening T20I against India.
In the past, Maxwell would have shrugged his shoulders and played the next innings without a care in the world. But in Bengaluru, it was a different Maxwell. He was calculative, observant, determined and composed. There was no rush of blood, no frantic swings across the line, just high-class ball striking.
The only mistake he made was when he top-edged a hook off the second ball he faced from Jasprit Bumrah. Luckily, the ball sailed over the ropes and the Indian bowlers didn't pepper him with anymore short balls for the rest of his innings. From that moment on, it was carnage.
There has never been a doubt about Maxwell's talent, but it is his decision making that has continuously raised doubts over his temperament. In Bengaluru, his shot selection had to be admired. His game against Yuzvendra Chahal was a battle of the mind and the test of his character.
Three times Chahal tried to tempt him with the wide, loopy, leg-spinner that had got better of him on several occassions in his career. Maxwell had fallen prey to it even in the first T20. This time around, though, he was alert and played with caution. The first wide ball was pushed along the ground. The next time Chahal tried it, Maxwell waited for the ball to come close to him and then lofted it with the spin over the covers for a six.
In the commentary box, Matthew Hayden was all praise for the shot: "That is so impressive, today he played with the spin. He has learned from his mistake - you cannot go across the hands on a slow pitch, he has executed it brilliantly".
Maxwell knew Chahal will try the sucker ball again. The leg-spinner wanted Maxwell to hit him through the on-side. The delivery finally arrived in the Chahal's last over, but Maxwell was ready for it and the minute he saw the line, he shuffled across and reverse swept it into the stands. Chahal smiled and nodded in appreciation. Maxwell was outthinking and outsmarting one of the best brains in world cricket. Maxwell might have lost this contest in the past, but he won the battle on Wednesday comprehensively by smashing Chahal for 35 from 16 balls.
Having studied the Indian bowling line-up, Maxwell had figured out that apart from Bumrah and Chahal, the rest of Indian bowlers lacked experience. In the past, a typical Maxwell would have thrown the kitchen sink at the whole bowling department, but last night, he targeted the weak links. Maxwell smashed 43 from 16 balls off Siddharth Kaul and Vijay Shankar. It was a perfectly orchestrated innings and it almost seemed like he had played the innings in his mind before he went out to bat.
"We just needed to get about 11 or 12 an over in the last four overs. We backed ourselves from there. After D'Arcy Short's dismissal, it was up to me to sit around and drive the innings forward. We were able to keep consistently having good overs, keep the run-rate in check" Maxwell said after the match.
Even with the required run-rate climbing, Maxwell kept his shape, an indication that he was playing the ball on merit rather than with a premeditated plan. The lofted shot through the covers off Bumrah in the 19th over and then the straight six off Kaul slower ball were two shots of a man that had the self-belief and desire to deflate any opposition.
The knock of 113 wasn't as devastating as his 65-ball 145 not out against Sri Lanka three years ago. But the beauty of this innings was that he won the match for Australia with his mind and bat working in tandem. This was Maxwell in his 'zone'.
Peter Handscomb summed it up perfectly: "Glen Maxwell is a freak. He can play shots that no other player can."
At the age of 30 and after trying to have the best minds in the business produce the best out of him, Maxwell seems to have finally matured. The upcoming ODI series might just be the start of a golden phase in his career.
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