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The Hundred: Glenn Maxwell ready to show up for the ECB's big show

Australia allrounder keen to don London Spirit colours after pulling out of last year's competition

Glenn Maxwell will be hoping to light up the Hundred in his first season with London Spirit  •  Getty Images

Glenn Maxwell will be hoping to light up the Hundred in his first season with London Spirit  •  Getty Images

On Thursday evening, playing against Oval Invincibles at the Kia Oval, Glenn Maxwell will finally add London Spirit to the list of teams he has graced on the lucrative short-form circuit.
It has been a long time coming, or perhaps not long at all if you're on Maxwell's "tick follows tock" schedule of franchise tournament into international duty and back into franchise tournament again, where time moves that little bit quicker. He was one of the most sought-after names ahead of the original draft at the end of the 2019 summer, then one of the many overseas withdrawals for the inaugural season in 2021.
But as the £100,000-man sits on the pavilion benches at Lord's, looking out on the historic ground he will call home for four games before returning to Australia for their white-ball series with Zimbabwe, he appreciates where he is in this moment. "I'm not sure you get a better venue for an interview, do you? This is as good as it gets."
Amid the excitement of his first taste of the Hundred, there is a tinge of sadness that the man who brought him here is no longer around. Prior to the draft three years ago, Shane Warne had been buttering up Maxwell - not that the 33-year-old needed much convincing to spend a few weeks of the summer in the capital.
"When the draft happened, I wasn't sure who I was going to go to, but as soon as I was picked up to London I was basically on the phone to Warnie pretty much nonstop," Maxwell says. "Trying to work out the team and all that sort of stuff. Different combinations."
Warne, who died suddenly in March, had a rough time as Spirit head coach last summer, ruled out of a chunk of games after contracting Covid-19 at the start. Nevertheless, his enthusiasm remained undimmed. Warne had spent the winter planning on springing a surprise on the rest after finishing bottom in the regular season, with Maxwell central to his plans to make amends.
"He said it was an amazing tournament to be a part of and all he was talking about after last year was 'oh next year we're going to get it right, it's fine, you'll be coming over'. The excitement in his voice, he spoke really passionately about it and, yeah, he loves this team.
"He loved being able to almost brag about coaching the team playing at Lord's, which was always quite funny. Being in the heart of London suited his lifestyle, he absolutely loved it here."
Much like Rajasthan Royals in this year's IPL, then Hampshire in the Vitality Blast, the legendary Australian will be in Spirit's thoughts as they go through their second campaign under new head coach Trevor Bayliss. Maxwell also hopes Warne will be able to have family representation at the odd game: "I got to see Jackson [Warne's oldest child] the other day. It's nice to see him over here and hopefully he can get to a game and see the boys play. I know he [Shane] would have loved to have been here."
Perhaps the surprising element to all this is the emotional attachment to a team he hasn't even played for. Most of that is Warne, of course: the pair were thick as thieves, with plenty in common beyond being avid St Kilda supporters. But part of being Glenn Maxwell is knowing you need to be Glenn Maxwell when a tournament of this billing comes calling.
"I've got a long nine months on the road so it's about getting my body right. Being able to be injury free for all that time is going to be key. Especially the wrong side of 30, you have to do all the right things"
There is little doubt the Hundred needs Maxwell more than he needs it, particularly with high-profile England Test players such as Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow resting from season two. But the challenge of a new environment, conditions and an altogether different format is exactly what he's after as he begins his step-up in preparations for the home Twenty20 World Cup awaiting him in October. In turn, the competition, even for those four rounds, should benefit.
"I think me personally, I'm trying to get my own preparation done for the World Cup. That's my whole game at the moment, is gearing towards that T20 World Cup. I'll use these conditions and the quality of teams and players in all those teams to hopefully get myself prepared. I know I'm only here for a short period of time but I'm going to be training with a goal in mind to be ready for that T20 World Cup.
"I still think this is an exciting new tournament that I wanted to be involved in anyway. Even if there wasn't a World Cup I'm still going to approach the game as I do every other game. It's more the off-field stuff, I'm starting to prepare longer down the road."
A best-ever Big Bash League season, with 468 runs at an average of 42.54 for Melbourne Stars, was followed by a middling IPL with Royal Challengers Bangalore (301 across 13 innings and just one half-century), though his wedding during the early stages of the competition puts that in perspective. Then came a tour of Sri Lanka where, following ODI and T20I series, he came agonisingly close to a first Test cap since September 2017.
And yet it is what lies ahead that Maxwell regards as a tougher period. Hence why the Hundred will be the start of his tuning up with a packed home summer on the horizon.
"I've got a long nine months on the road so it's about getting my body right. Being able to be injury free for all that time is going to be key. Especially the wrong side of 30, you have to do all the right things around your training and it's certainly one of the things I've been working really hard at, to keep that consistency of training going and consistency of gym work to make sure I do stay injury free. And I know that'll help in the back end of my career as well."
The card for all short-format cricketers is only growing, with the lucrative new UAE T20 league and South Africa's own big-money offering, which are due to sandwich the BBL. As a contracted player with Cricket Australia - for the time being - organising his calendar is that little bit easier given they are his primary employer. But he has sympathy for those now spoilt for choice but having to sort their own path during what is both an exciting time for T20 cricketers but more precarious for those with irons in the fire elsewhere.
"For the domestic player, there are so many opportunities all over the place," he says. "Trying to organise your own schedule and pick and choose what you do left right and centre, that'll be a nightmare. I'm probably going to be retiring at the right time in a few years - there are going to be T20 tournaments everywhere."
These next weeks in England should set him right. The lack of Covid-19 restrictions make it the best touring destination at the moment, a far cry from when Maxwell was last here at the end of the 2020 summer when he had and his Australia team-mates were kept to the bio-secure confines of the Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford for their white-ball tour. When he arrived for this stint, he grabbed a beer and dinner with Bayliss, something he did not take for granted. "I remember a couple of years ago, you'd be silly to think 'oh it's an amazing effort to get to the pub and just have a drink and a meal.' But it just felt like you were normal again."
As for getting down to business, he is armed with some ideas on the Hundred, fuelled by his own observations and what he has learned from conversations with other cricketers. All underpinned by a pretty crucial love for someone in his line of work - mathematics.
"Well, one of the things that they did say [to look out for] was the countdown," he says of runs required and balls remaining ticking down in the chase - a quirk that caught some off-guard.
"I think that's a good way of trying to do it because saying you need 12 an over and saying you need two a ball, it's the same thing. But sometimes it can sort of mess with the batter's head a little bit and they said they struggled with that last year and it's something that you've gotta get used to. But that's why maths is something that you have to learn.
"Marnus [Labuschange] isn't that good at maths and, as a cricket nuffie, it has to be one of those things that you just know. I used to work on my maths just by net run rates watching Australia play England in a one-dayer, and I'd be working it out on the screen before it came up anywhere. And that's how you get better, that's how you work on things, but to be able to look at the scoreboard and just go okay, I need this, saves you so much stress and time. Marnus is there like trying to carry the one…"
Interestingly, one prospect he is unsure of is bowling 10 deliveries straight. Last season, captains left the same bowler on around 10% of the time, with spinners bowling 69% of the 10-ball sets. As an off spinner with street smarts and a quick turnaround, Maxwell is an ideal candidate for that tactic.
"I prefer to get five and just get out of the way. Whenever I bowl an over, even in the Big Bash, I bowl my sixth ball and I run. I'm like, I've got away with that. So I'm not sure about bowling 10 balls in a row. I think, unless you get the match-up right and we can keep them on strike, as a standard offspinner with not too many tricks it's going to be hard to get away with 10 balls in a row. If you can get five and then come back on another five balls later that might work but I just think you need that break as a standard spinner."
Perhaps at some point over these first four games his skipper Eoin Morgan will be able to convince him otherwise, especially as Spirit used the 10-ball option more than any other team. One thing is for sure, Maxwell's presence in the Hundred will enhance both its intrigue and cache.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo