February 10, 2015

What makes Maxwell different

Like many other destructive batsmen, he has quick hands. Unlike them, he plays the field set for him, not the bowler
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Glenn Maxwell's job in the Australian batting line-up is to maximise the scoring potential © AFP

What are the chances of seeing, even in a T20 game, a reverse sweep being played by a batsman to a ball pitched a couple of feet outside leg? While the shot is often lucrative towards the end of an innings, how many batsmen would be audacious enough to try it if there were more overs left in the game than had been bowled?

Glenn Maxwell is one such player who is rewriting the rules of batting in the shorter formats of the game. The shot mentioned above was played against R Ashwin in Kings XI Punjab's first IPL game last year. ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary described it in this way:

3.2 Ashwin to Maxwell, FOUR, no need to get your eye in, just pull out that reverse sweep and drag the carrom ball from way outside leg stump to the point boundary. That is just a top shot.

Maxwell played a few more fours after that one, with equal success.

Still, there are a few batsmen who, in spite of being phenomenally good in T20, find it tough to translate that success to the 50-over game, for they simply do not have the game to take on quality bowlers who aren't hamstrung by being able to bowl only four overs a game. Most batsmen who are T20 successes are lethal against lesser bowlers, and reasonably aggressive against better bowlers, but if a quality bowler is allowed to have an extended spell against them, they are found out. However, though Maxwell is not a runaway success in ODIs yet, his knock against England in the tri-series final and against India in the warm-up game are a fair indicator of what to expect from him in the World Cup. While he might not be the standout performer for Australia - he plays in a side with proven match-winners in it, and bats too low to make a regular impact - he is likely to play a few crucial knocks when they matter.

Some of his more outrageous shots may work in the IPL but not on the faster pitches and bigger grounds of Australia © BCCI

Maxwell, like a lot of modern batsmen, has quick hands that allow him to generate great bat speed. It's a quality that's needed if you aren't built like Chris Gayle or Kieron Pollard. There's no substitute for hitting the ball hard once it gets old and the field spreads. While there's still a lot of merit in putting the ball in gaps and running hard, 300-plus in an ODI and 200-plus in a T20 can't be achieved without hitting fours and sixes, and Maxwell is good at it.

What makes Maxwell different from most players is the fact that he doesn't play the bowler or the ball that is bowled to him but the field that has been set for him. Once he's reasonably confident about his form on the day, his choice of strokes is totally a reaction to where the fielders are. The reverse sweep I mentioned earlier was a result of the point fielder being inside the circle to Ashwin. So Maxwell had to either beat the inner ring or hit over it. Yes, there's still a lot of risk because of the lack of complete control while playing a reverse sweep, because of the angles involved, but Maxwell isn't one to fuss over percentages.

That's another quality most batsmen who pull off these unorthodox shots share - they are completely convinced that they will pull it off almost every single time. Virender Sehwag would play Muttiah Muralitharan against the spin all the time with a conviction that the ball wouldn't go through the gap between bat and pad. If it did, he'd consider it an aberration and play against the spin again when Murali came on. Sometimes you envy these players' mindsets; most "thinking" cricketers spend their time wondering about what will happen if they don't connect.

If the third-man fielder is inside the circle, it is almost a given that Maxwell will attempt a reverse sweep sooner rather than later. If the point fielder is inside to a fast bowler, Maxwell will attempt an inside-out shot, backing away. The good thing about playing the gaps is that he doesn't need to hit a 70-yard shot every time, and since he only needs to clear the 30-yard circle, he doesn't hit the ball too hard, which means he can maintain shape on most occasions. Reading the field also gives you an insight into the bowler's plan. For example, if the third-man and fine-leg fielders are inside the circle, the bouncer is out of the question; instead a slower one is much more likely. If the mid-off fielder is inside the circle to a fast bowler, you don't expect full balls.

Opposition captains are likely to find success if they bounce him soon as he walks in © Getty Images

Obviously it's not easy to reverse-sweep a fast bowler, or to hit him down the ground if it is short, but the rewards are worth the risk. There's a bit of criticism about Maxwell sometimes throwing his wicket away when ten to 12 overs are left in the game, but that's the nature of the beast. You can't play high-risk, low-percentage cricket and score big hundreds regularly. Also, given his batting position, he's not really required to score hundreds; his job is to maximise the scoring potential.

While there are many things that are going Maxwell's way at the moment, teams might want to look at the chinks in his game.

For starters, he isn't 100% comfortable against good quick bouncers, so opposition attacks may want to look at using the big grounds in Australia to lay traps. Maxwell gets away with playing attacking shots against bouncers in the IPL because of the slower pitches and smaller grounds, but he might get into trouble if he tries the same things in Australia. It won't be a bad idea to throw the ball to your fastest bowler when Maxwell walks in.

The second ball that's likely to work is the yorker. Targeting the nose and toes is fairly established as a successful tactic in the death overs, but with Maxwell you cannot afford to wait till the death overs, because he gets going as soon as he walks in to bat. If you allow him to find his feet, chances are you'll end up paying a huge price.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here. @cricketaakash

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Simon on February 15, 2015, 2:57 GMT

    One thing's for sure, Maxwell will go missing when he is really needed. He's the master of the 'survival runs'. He'll make runs when the pressure is off, in irrelevant lead up games and the media will rave about his 'inventiveness' but it's noticeable no ex playing commentator mentions his value to the team. Those survival runs get him another game, but he goes missing when the team needs production. This tournament is the pivotal moment for him. IF he has the team oriented ability to make ugly runs, basic cricket shots to finish a 30 needed from 60, bowl a few overs for under 7 an over, THEN make a team contribution in the finals which actually contributes to a win, THEN he'll be a cricketer. Everything he's done in an Aussie cap of any colour up 'til this stage suggests otherwise. Hurry back Faulkner - a real clutch allrounder.

  • Peter on February 12, 2015, 8:14 GMT

    @LIVERKEWE11 . Nor will you either because he is totally clueless. As for Maxwell, I would rather him be in my team than against me, every time!

  • Dummy on February 12, 2015, 3:31 GMT

    I just can't see Maxwell doing well in this world cup.He just comes out as a player who would be able to do well everywhere but world cup.

  • Ryan on February 12, 2015, 1:51 GMT

    Maxi is an excitement machine. Alas, his success rate isn't that good but there is plenty of time to improve that. He is precocious and that comes from enormous confidence. He is being used in a care free fashion but as he matures, I would like to see him tone it down but only sufficient to increase his consistency.

    As to comments that Australia relies on its bowlers as the batters aren't much chop... when they stop scoring 300+ your comments might resonate. They are a bit empty otherwise.

  • Daniel on February 12, 2015, 0:30 GMT

    @PERL57 I am still yet to see a comment from you that shows you understand anything about cricket...

  • James on February 12, 2015, 0:21 GMT

    Perl57: "I am expecting Warner, Smith, Maxi will flop in all major matches." You mean like Warner and Smith flopped recently against the likes of Steyn, Philander, Morkel, Anderson and Broad? Oh, wait...

    I have been very critical of Maxwell in recent times but I think he is just one of those freakishly talented players whose skill level advanced much faster than his match-sense. In the tri-series he actually looked like was allowing himself to build an innings instead of going from ball one, which makes him a dangerous prospect. He could flop in the Cup but he could just as easily be man of the tournament.

    PS he's been scoring against England too (not just India), which has a pretty decent pace attack.

  • anil on February 11, 2015, 19:45 GMT

    He will be sorted out in the WC. For sure, against India there were so many edges that he was lucky to have went that far. I am expecting Warner, Smith, Maxi will flop in all major matches. Others, does not even count. It will be OZ bowling how they can stop the opposition.

  • Vikas on February 11, 2015, 15:11 GMT

    I can't help but get the feeling if Maxwell's reputation has been built on the feeble Indian attack,perhaps one of the weakest in all the Test playing countries.

  • Richard on February 11, 2015, 0:50 GMT

    If he has a good cup you'd reckon we'd be pretty hard to stop. In my book he's never really pretty to watch but I can't help but gasp and shake my head in amazement at some of the shots he plays, sometimes the result is embarrassing, but when it comes off it's pretty impressive. We used to have the same feelings about Kim Hughes, one of the more inventive shotmakers of my youth, but compared with Maxwell he was pretty sensible, for want of a better word. He'd be a nightmare to bowl to, you'd always reckon you were in with a chance but in the meantime it could get expensive. Were it up to me I'd try to bore him out, I still think he's vulnerable there, but you'd have to do it well and if he was having one of those days you'd still end up in the stands on a regular basis.

  • rob on February 11, 2015, 0:00 GMT

    There have been signs lately that Maxi is actually starting to get a clue when it comes to 50 over cricket. Twice in the last few weeks he's built an innings in the traditional style. It might seem odd to say that given that one of those was 122 off 57 balls, but he actually started that dig in the traditional fashion and it wasn't until he had 40 or so on the board he went ballistic. .. Whatever you think of him, he's just too dangerous a player to leave out.

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