Published on March 29th, 2018 | by Rohit Sankar0
Can Maxwell’s elan bring focus back to cricket?
It’s time for Maxwell to prove his worth.
“Just looking at the way he trains, I think he could train a little bit smarter,”
Steven Smith had commented on why Glenn Maxwell was dropped from the ODI team at the start of the year. Ironically, as Maxwell makes a comeback to the Test side, it is in place of Steven Smith, who has been unceremoniously banned for a year from the game for ball tampering.
Usually, every time Maxwell comes in or walks out of the team, the focus is on him. Now, the last thing on anybody’s mind is Maxwell’s return to the Test side in unforeseen circumstances. Steven Smith and David Warner are trending for all the wrong reasons while Maxwell, not far away from the spotlight often, awaits for the ruckus to settle down.
Perhaps, this is the moment Maxwell needs to grab. The Victorian has just seven Tests under his belt and never seemed ready as a player to don the baggy green with conviction. However, his day of reckoning could be coming soon.
The stop-start Test career he has had since 2014 could finally be ending if Maxwell is prepared to shed his glam and focus on the cricket. “Hopefully, this innings ticks something inside me” – he had said after a maiden Test hundred around this time at Ranchi last year.
It could have, had he been retained for the Ashes. He wasn’t and watched the series from the sidelines, scored oodles of runs in the Sheffield Shield competition – including a maiden double hundred – and patiently awaited opportunities.
The double ton was telling in more ways than one. For one, it was the highest score in the Shield in five years. For another, Maxwell isn’t the kind of batsman, or so you would think, to make these big Test double tons. Yes, it was uncharacteristic, but it showed that he was prepared to fight it out for a place in the coveted Test side.
When Mitchell Marsh roared back to form at no.6, Maxwell’s hopes must have faded despite the mountain of runs he had made in domestic cricket in the year. “I spoke to ‘Cracker’ [Hohns] briefly after the warm-up, obviously when the team had been announced,” Maxwell told ABC radio. “He wanted me to go back and make hundreds. That was pretty simple. I said, ‘I’ve been trying … it’s not like I’ve been trying to get out for 60.’ There is never too much of a complicated chat. They’re not talking about technique changes or anything like that. It’s just ‘go pile on some runs’, like they tell every other batter.”
Runs. Maxwell has plenty of them to show for in the past few months. Yet, it would be the last thing on his mind right now. With Warner and Smith gone and an inexperienced Tim Paine leading the side, Maxwell could be considered a part of the new “leadership group”.
The last week has been devastating for Australian cricket. From losing respect across the World for their abominable actions to banning their skipper and vice-captain for the same, Australia’s World has turned upside down.
It is exactly five days since Cameron Bancroft was caught red-handed by the broadcasters and the hullabaloo surrounding the whole incident is yet to settle down. A devastated Steve Smith, sent back home, gave a heart-wrenching press conference back home and the World is still recovering from the after effects. Those who pinned Smith down in the past few days have garnered sympathy for him following the heartfelt words but the noise isn’t dying down yet.
The focus, for once, isn’t on Maxwell and his comeback. To put things into perspective, Steven Smith has been talked about a whopping 267.8k times on social media over the past one week. Maxwell, on the other hand, has flown under the radar, with a mere 5.2k mentions as shown by TalkWalker tool.
When the Aussies walk out at Johannesburg, they will know that expectations are lower than ever. A win would probably be the last thing on their mind but nothing would help them move on better than a victory at the Bullring. Maxwell will have few eyes on him for once and could be the change Australia need right now.
If he can take over from Warner, albeit down the order, and take the attack to the Proteas, it could lift a few Aussie spirits. They need a boost and quickly, to forget the tough times of the past few days and bring the focus back to the cricket field.
“I’ve got a frog in my throat,” Maxwell had said after his maiden Test hundred in India. That frog would be bigger and heavier right now. Nothing could help shrink it better than a game-changing knock at the Wanderers. Can we please enjoy the cricket from tomorrow?