Until a few days ago, Glenn Maxwell, having been discarded from Australia’s One-Day International team, was playing for Australia A in the quadrangular series featuring India A, South Africa A and Australia’s National Performance squad.
By his own admission, it was a fall from grace for Maxwell, but on Tuesday (September 6), he channelled the hurt and disappointment into an unbeaten knock of 145 off 65 balls to power Australia to a handsome win against Sri Lanka in the first Twenty20 International in Pallekele.
“It was pretty demoralising, to tell the truth,” said Maxwell on playing a series of four-day and one-day games with Australia A while his teammates were doing national duty. “I was quite focused and ready to go, but it was hard to get yourself up for those games from where I was.”
Maxwell began the year strongly with 96 against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in January, but his form tapered off and a stretch of five matches where he scored only nine runs didn’t go unnoticed by the selectors.
“Having the innings at the MCG, I thought 2016 was going to be my year to break open world cricket,” he said after his maiden T20I century powered Australia to a record 263 for 3. “To drop off completely from the one-day format was really disappointing. The New Zealand series really hurt me. West Indies, I was out of luck there and couldn’t get a break. To not be on the Sri Lanka Test tour probably hurt more than anything. I understood why they dropped me, I have no issues with that, but the Test tour probably hurt the most.
“To do quite pitiful, by my standards, in the ‘A’ series, all the way through … tonight I beat my total runs scored in the four-dayers and one-dayers (107 runs at an average of 21.40), which is just an indication of how badly I went. I hold pretty high standards for myself. When I do play at that level, I expect to dominate it, I expect to score a lot of runs. It was pretty average.”
Which is why when the selectors did see fit to include him in the T20I side, Maxwell kept his eyes peeled for every opportunity to prove his worth, even dropping a hint to Greg Blewett, Australia’s batting coach, that he could open the innings after Aaron Finch was ruled out through injury.
“I actually had a chat to Greg Blewett a couple of days ago after Finch had hurt his finger,” he revealed. “I said, ‘Geez, I’d love to have a crack at the top of the order.’ Sure enough, Bull (David Warner) gave me a tap on the shoulder and said I was going to be up top with him. I was really excited about it and looking forward to the opportunity.”
Before the game, Maxwell had only opened for Australia twice in his career, once in Tests and once in ODIs. He admitted batting at the top is what he personally prefers but, be it for Australia or the T20 sides he plays for, the opportunity to do so is just not there.
“I really enjoy batting at the top of the order in Twenty20 cricket,” he explained. I find it’s easier to get into the innings. When you’re in the middle order, you have to be proactive the whole time. It seems like if you get out playing a big shot at that stage of the game, it all falls on your shoulders.”
“At the top of the order, you’ve got a little bit more freedom to get yourself into the game and play pretty normal cricket shots without taking too many risks. You only have to beat two guys on the fence. The way they (Sri Lanka) set fields at the start made it pretty obvious where they’re going to bowl. It made my job a lot easier in the first six.”
However, for anyone thinking that this knock could open doors for Maxwell in Test cricket, especially in the subcontinent given Australia were whitewashed in Sri Lanka last month, he wasn’t too sure. “I wouldn’t like to be pigeonholed as a subcontinent specialist, because I know how difficult it is here,” he suggested.
“To score runs in one-day cricket against the white ball in the subcontinent is totally different to playing red-ball cricket, when you’ve got guys around the bat, five guys on the fence, and they’re able to just plug away all day. It doesn’t matter how many reverse-sweeps for four you hit, they’re still going to be around the bat. And when you try to defend, one will blow up off the wicket, take your gloves, and you’re out.
“I know how difficult it is. People go ‘He’s made runs in the subcontinent in the white-ball form, surely he can make runs in the red-ball form’. But it’s just not the same. All my red-ball runs have been made in either England or Australia. On the back of that, I’d like to be picked in Australia.”