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Aussie cricket’s triple threat: the Maxwell enigma

IF you look up X-factor in the cricket dictionary, expect to see a photograph of Glenn Maxwell.

It would be a picture taken earlier this year when the blistering batsman was strutting his stuff in the Big Bash, then against England and New Zealand, minus his helmet.

The fact he did some of his best swashbuckling without a lid just adds to the Maxwell legend.

 

Glenn Maxwell celebrates bringing up a century with a six from the last ball of Australia’s T20 win over England last summer. Picture: Getty
Glenn Maxwell celebrates bringing up a century with a six from the last ball of Australia’s T20 win over England last summer. Picture: Getty

 

Triple threat... Maxwell is among the world’s most electric fielders. Picture: AAP
Triple threat... Maxwell is among the world’s most electric fielders. Picture: AAP

He is the ultimate triple threat, with the capacity to steal or seal a match with the bat, ball or in the field.

That all-round ability has him settled on top of the International Cricket Council Twenty20 player rankings - and by some margin - in a game that demands more than one skill.

There was a time during 2018 when he was second on the T20 batting rankings, too - he's sixth going into this summer - after that run glut earlier this year when he was smiling, and sweating, in equal parts.

Maxwell possessed that rare talent in sport: when he's on, you just can't look away.

Even in the early years of his career, which include a $1 million Indian Premier League wage before he'd played for Australia, he had a reputation as a showman - and he did his best to live up to that.

But you can't be all show all the time. Every cricketer goes through a no-go period and the chase for something special all the time can catch up with even the most confident men.

That's a fact not lost on Aussie legend Shane Warne, who knows the best Maxwell is an important key to Australia's white-ball success.

But Warne said harnessing the unquestioned ability of Maxwell was a matter of embracing his unique characteristics.

"If you are looking for consistency from Glenn Maxwell, you are not going to get it. But what you want is to see the right attitude, not throwing his wicket away with ridiculous shots," Warne said.

"You've got to accept a few of those brain fades, but only accept, over a season, one or two. Once you start seeing it happen a lot you wonder if he's in the right frame of mind to play in big pressure moments.

"We all know Maxy has the talent, we all know he's an X-factor. What we want to try and see is Maxy play the way he likes to be play - to be Glenn Maxwell - because when it works, it's incredible."

 

Teammates: A young Glenn Maxwell takes advice from then Melbourne Stars teammate Glenn Maxwell.
Teammates: A young Glenn Maxwell takes advice from then Melbourne Stars teammate Glenn Maxwell.

The Warne knock on Maxwell is a near-universal one. The clips of Maxwell leaving a ball, bowled on the stumps, after dancing down the wicket in a Big Bash game gets a high rotation through the summer.

He's prone to the odd mad moment, and early on in his career they came at the wrong time.

But that jaw-dropping moment, which left commentators speechless, was in 2014, which, in the world of cricket's cramped calendars, was an eon ago.

The incident, where Maxwell danced down the wicket, first ball, in a Big Bash clash at the Gabba, only to keave it and be clean bowled by Ryan Duffield, went around the world.

Since then, Maxwell has won a World Cup with Australia in 2015, when he was his team's third-highest run scorer and made his lone one-day century.

It marked a turning point for him and led to him being elevated to the Test team in 2017 - and a century knock under the baggy green.

 

Thumbs up: Glenn Maxwell was one of the key driving forces in Australia’s 2015 World Cup triumph. Picture: Getty
Thumbs up: Glenn Maxwell was one of the key driving forces in Australia’s 2015 World Cup triumph. Picture: Getty

The enigma was done, replaced by a maturing man. Still full of that rare talent for the amazing, but channelled into being a player who could be relied upon.

Ask him, and that's what he'll tell you. It's not all about Maxwell anymore, either.

When Victoria saluted in the domestic one-day final earlier this month, Maxwell failed to fire with the bat.

All eyes were on him when he came out to bat, as they had been all tournament after his omission from the Test squad to play Pakistan raised eyebrows across the nation. (Some joke that people cringe when Maxwell is in the national team, but cry foul when he's not.)

But he was told he needed more domestic runs, and they hadn't been flowing in the JLT Cup. In the final, coming in with 18 overs to bat, he struggled to just nine.

The old Maxwell would have kicked cans for the rest of the day, fallen in to a "woe is me" mentality.

But not the man now aged 30, who has his own leadership ambitions and who is, as he has always wanted to be, the ultimate team man.

 

Team man: Glenn Maxwell (R) celebrates with Peter Handscomb during the JLT Cup final. Picture: Getty
Team man: Glenn Maxwell (R) celebrates with Peter Handscomb during the JLT Cup final. Picture: Getty

He came out and opened the bowling for the Victorians, dismissed his arch-enemy Matthew Wade and put Tasmania on the back foot, a position from which they never recovered.

When he walked off the Junction Oval with a winner's medal, he couldn't have looked more satisfied.

"Plenty to smile about," he said.

"And it's just the start of the summer. There's plenty more to come."

For Maxwell, and for cricket fans, that's a promise to look forward to.

 

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