Glenn Maxwell can be as good as Virat Kohli if he continues to ally newfound discipline and purpose to the talent he has demonstrated for a long time, Australia's coach Justin Langer has declared.
Ahead of the final ODI between Australia and Pakistan in Dubai, Langer delivered the bold call when queried about how Maxwell had improved over the course of the season, from a time when he seemed uncertain of his place in any team to now winning the coach's respect for how he had contributed to both the T20I and ODI teams.
For Langer, the next step for 30-year-old Maxwell is to maintain the sort of consistency he has shown in the UAE series, as epitomised by Kohli's near universal presence at the top of global batting aggregates year in and year out.
If he can play those more responsible innings and do what he does, it's very important for us
JUSTIN LANGER ON GLENN MAXWELL
"The challenge for him is, and I've said this to him - we've just seen Virat Kohli, who is an extraordinarily talented player, he averages 60 [59.57] in ODI cricket; he is a great player - at the moment, in 99 games, Maxi averages 32 or 33 [32.87]. He can be Virat Kohli. He has got the talent to do that," Langer said. "The way he played that T20 hundred in India, the way he played both T20s - we know he's a great T20 player. His next challenge is to become a great ODI player and then potentially a Test player.
"So there's huge upside for him and while he keeps practicing with the purpose he's got and winning games of cricket like he is, it's great to have him. It's obviously a massive challenge, isn't it? He is now 30 years old and he's played 99 games, but we all see it - and everyone talks about it - he's got a huge amount of talent and his challenge has always been to deliver on that talent. And he's done it in patches."
One of the critical messages Langer delivered to Maxwell last year surrounded training with purpose, after the allrounder had previously been seen as a somewhat wayward talent. "I think he's put a lot of emphasis into his practice as well. He's practising with real purpose and he's getting the rewards for that. It's great to see," Langer said. "He's such an important part of our team. He brings energy to everything that he does - whether it's fielding, running between wickets, his strike rate.
"We saw it last night, he can come in when we were four down (for 101, before he hit 98) and under the pump. He can come in at the end - because his strike rate is 120 in ODIs, that's the highest by anyone in the world [only behind Andre Russell]. If he can play those more responsible innings and do what he does, it's very important for us.
"He's such a valuable player for us because of everything he brings. It's not just his batting, it's his fielding, his bowling is really important. He's getting better with his bowling all the time. I think he bowled seven overs in the last World Cup final, so he keeps delivering on that. His fielding is world class. He's a good package, isn't he?"
Langer also offered strong words of praise for the captain Aaron Finch, who has shrugged off an earlier run of failures by returning to form in India and then following up to telling effect in the UAE. He now has the chance to lead the Australians to a 5-0 sweep of the ODI series against Pakistan, something the team have not achieved away from home since doing the trick against West Indies in the Caribbean in 2008.
"Finchy is doing a great job. He's getting better all the time," Langer said. "He would have taken confidence out of the Big Bash final as well. As a captain you've got to live it, you've got to have those really positive experiences. He's just growing. He's doing a really good job. He's obviously batting well and he's doing a really good job.
"He's had a long, hard summer and he's getting better towards the end of it. Great resilience, great durability and it also shows great leadership. Because often what happens at the end of a summer, guys can start going south. He's actually getting better and better."