Glenn Maxwell inspires fear.
You could see it in the eyes of R Ashwin, and in his bowling; in the exasperation of Mahendra Singh Dhoni as Dwayne Smith was reverse-flicked over the third man boundary for six... in the way Ishwar Pandey just turned around and walked back up to his mark after being hammered across the line for six. It is exhilarating, it is inspiring, and it is scary.
Till now this kind of fear was the sole domain of Chris Gayle. The most intimidating sight in T20 cricket was watching the Jamaican walk out to bat. There is no swinging of the arms – just a slow, deliberate movement that we learned had much more destructive intent than could be gauged from his disarming smile.
The first few overs would – in general – be peaceful. He would take his time and then once he was sure of the pace of the wicket – he would calmly bludgeon one ball into the stands, soon after another would follow. He dealt in sixes in the way that other batsmen thought about ones and twos.
Gayle’s record-breaking 175 in IPL 6 was so devastatingly brilliant that the opposition skipper Aaron Finch had jokingly even suggested a ban: “Maybe we should ban him from the game. Maybe he’s too good, he hits it too far.”
Now, those very same thoughts are doing the rounds in the Indian Premier League. Only this time, the man in the picture has changed – it is not Gayle that they are talking about, it is Maxwell.
His run of scores in the tournament so far is nothing short of incredible: 95, 89, 95, 15, 6, 45, 90.
He is the only batsman to score over 400 runs in an IPL tournament (he has 435 runs at present) with a strike rate of over 200. If he can continue to bat in the same vein, he shouldn’t have too much trouble going past IPL’s single season run-scoring record of 733, jointly held by Chris Gayle (2012) and Mike Hussey (2013). In seven matches, he has had the opportunity to reach a century four times and that is almost unthinkable in T20 matches. To top it all, Maxwell has also hit 27 sixes so far in IPL 2014; that is 27 sixes in 7 matches.
There are things that Maxwell does on the field that Gayle never even dreamed about. During the 2012 World T20 tournament in Sri Lanka, after a nets session – Gayle was asked about his view on unorthodox shots, his answer... delivered in a slow drawl was: “Not yet. I haven’t reached that state as yet.”
But after watching Maxwell uses his reverse sweeps and switch hits to telling effect against fast bowlers and spinners alike, surely a part of Gayle wishes he could do that as well. The big West Indian’s tournament has been disrupted by a hamstring injury but Maxwell just looks like a more dangerous package.
The Australian runs the ones and twos faster, is a better fielder and his unorthodox hitting has literally taken away the meaning of line and length. The right line to a right-hander doesn’t exactly work as well for a left-hander and Maxwell’s switch hitting means that the captain and the bowler are never sure. He’s had a lot of luck – the edges have missed the stumps, catches have been dropped but to his credit, he has made the opposition pay dearly for each missed chance.
Gayle seems to pound the ball into the stands with just the power of his arms – Maxwell seems to throws his entire body into the shot. His swivels where Gayle stands and delivers... strange as it may seem, Maxwell seems to have a certain languid grace that seemed to once be the domain of batsmen from the Caribbean.
For most of the match against Chennai Super Kings on Wednesday night, he seemed unable to stop smiling. His team-mates tell us he practices his golf more than his cricket but it is pretty obvious that he is having a lot of fun in the middle and that isn't good news for the opposition.
Updated Date: May 09, 2014 08:47 AM