Glenn Maxwell, the Man Cricket Doesn’t Deserve

Despite what many would have you believe, sport is just light entertainment.

 

Yes, it has a grand history; yes, it’s played around the world to an audience of billions; and yes, the main players are more athletic and talented than any of the people in the audience. But isn’t that true of television, or film, or music? When you get down to it, there’s not much difference between Tom Hawkins and Tom Cruise.

 

So, we go to the big game for a couple hours of fun, to see the top players in full flight doing what they do best. Much like any movie, the cast of an event will range from the bargain bin actors (Clint Hinchcliffe, Lance Morris) to the serviceable mid-tier (Marcus Stoinis, Nathan Coulter-Nile), right up to the big marquee name.

 

And there’s no bigger marquee name than Glenn Maxwell.

 


 

It’s been ten years since Maxwell made his professional debut. Introduced as “a 21yo off-spinning all-rounder” on Cricinfo’s commentary, he didn’t bat and didn’t bowl, but still took a couple of catches. (Something that, by the way, he leads the Big Bash League in.) His true charms would come when the scene changed, from the century-old state-based model to the shiny new franchises of the BBL. Because, more than anyone else, Maxwell defines the BBL.

 

Despite being the second biggest league for the world’s second biggest-sport, the Big Bash League can be astonishingly stupid at times. In the last few weeks alone, we’ve seen teams be 1/90 off five overs, bowlers bowl a wicket maiden to open an innings, the greatest nutshot in sporting history, a batsman bowled around his legs going for a sweep shot by a ball that barely bounced, and whatever that nose scratch was. There’s a reason some have taken to calling it the Big Trash League.

 

Maxwell encapsulates all this. His career is a microcosm of cricketing absurdity. He’s scored 145* off 65 internationally, but left balls on middle and leg. He’s opened the batting and bowling in the same Test match, and bowled double wicket maidens to win ODIs. He’s even caught balls while holding an ice-cream.

 

And last night at Docklands, he added another masterpiece to his folio.

 


 

The game had no right to be as entertaining as it was. Yes, it was a Melbourne derby, but it was between the top placed team (6-1, in excellent form and with a solid lineup) and the bottom side (0-7, with their two best players away on international duty). By rights it should have been a walkover for the Stars, and yet somehow it wasn’t.

 

Maxwell, captain and marquee player of his side,* won the bat flip and sent the Renegades in. And then immediately put himself on to bowl, showing self-belief that might border on arrogance if it wasn’t for the fact he had the goods. No wickets, but 0/10 off his first two overs to open was pretty solid bowling.

 

Unlike the previous week’s derby, where the Renegades had never looked in it, the batting innings showed promise. Shaun Marsh and Marcus Harris made a dynamic opening partnership, putting on 86 before finally getting dismissed. The runs continued even as the wickets fell, with the Renegades at 4/160 after 18 overs, and looking at their highest total of the season.

 

The Stars swung momentum back, though. Nathan Coulter-Nile bowled two wickets in two balls, and Haris Rauf – the Pakistani fast-bowling sensation who’s swung from obscurity into international contention in just three weeks – bowled a clutch final over, conceding just two runs.

 

The Renegades finished with 168 – a better total than the game before; still not enough to be comfortable but enough to feel safe with.

 

The Stars went in to bat. Rather than having Maxwell and Stoinis as opening partners, a lineup which had served them well before, the captain demoted himself, putting Hilton Cartwright into the opening spot. The innings was ready to build, until Stoinis fell to a third-ball duck.

 

No pressure yet, though. Ben Dunk in at number three to steady the ship, which he did. Not quite well enough, scoring at a run a ball before he was out in the sixth. 2/36, not ideal.

 

Nick Larkin to come in. Hardly the most notable name, but another passable batsman with a T20 fifty. Maxwell waiting in the wings, biding his time, ready to come in at the twelfth or thirteenth over.

 

He had to come in during the seventh, which was hardly ideal.

 

At this point, the Renegades believed. Belief is dangerous, especially when you’re in the worst form in club history. But collapses had happened before, most notably in last season’s final at this very ground, so there was every chance.

 

No need to panic yet, though. Just keep rotating the strike, ticking the runs over. Singles every ball, making sure you keep momentum.

 

And that’s what the Stars did, making their way through the tricky middle overs without much pressure. Singles most every ball, occasionally pushing a two, preparing for the strike.

 

The overs ticked past. The Renegades weren’t taking any wickets, but the required run rate was steadily increasing. After fifteen overs, the score was 3/109. The Stars had hit three boundaries in fifty balls, and there was a murmuring around the ground that they’d left the strike too late. They needed sixty runs off five overs.

 

They’d only need four.

 


 

Arguably the greatest sight in world sport is a six. Watching a cricketer swing their bat with just the right amount of power, at just the right time, and sending the ball over the boundary, is a nearly unparalleled experience.

 

Maxwell’s second six of the night, and the first of the final onslaught, was astonishing. Never mind the terrible ball, but Maxwell’s strike – bringing up his 300th T20 six, by the way – was perfection. Rolling his wrists over, hitting the full toss just when it reached the perfect range – the ball sailed into the second tier, taking the 30,000 crowd’s breath away. And it was just the beginning.

 

A single off the next ball returned the strike to Larkin, who added a six of his own. The strike was swapped again and again, with Maxwell ensuring he’d face the first ball of the next over.

 

Cameron Boyce went on to bowl, hoping to do better than Mennie. The ball that sailed over deep midwicket quashed any hope of that. And while he wasn’t punished with any more sixes, the top-notch running, turning ones into twos with ease, kept the atmosphere alive and the chase well within reach.

 

Richard Gleeson, the underwhelming English import, was next in line for punishment. The first ball, full outside off, was hammered all the way to midwicket; the second was even fuller (on the cusp of a no-ball, even) and almost reached the third tier. Another athletic two, more strike rotation, and Gleeson had gone for seventeen off the over. Time for Dan Christian to put himself on, and put his team out of its misery.

 

Because there was no chance the Stars were going to lose this game. Not after Maxwell’s six off Mennie. The last sixty runs – including seven sixes – were merely a formality.

 

Christian’s final over was mercifully short. A dot ball was followed up by a six over long-off, a two down the ground, and a comically short bouncer that was unsurprisingly called a wide. Six needed. It was always going to be a six.

 

And of course, it was. Almost the biggest hit of the night, way over deep square leg. Maxwell had hit forty-nine runs in sixteen balls, to win his team the game. It was his fourteenth BBL fifty, but likely his best. And, for the young BBL crowd, likely the best innings they’ve ever seen.

 

There are questions to be asked about a performance like this, as there always are. Are the Renegades truly that awful? Has Maxwell controlled his mental health issues? How on earth is he not playing for the national side?

 

But sometimes, we need to step back and avoid questions. We need to marvel in the skill of Glenn Maxwell, the ease with which he plays the game, how he makes the brilliant look effortless.

 

He is the greatest entertainer in the game.

 


 

Melbourne Stars win by 7 wickets (with 8 balls remaining)
Melbourne Renegades 7/168 (Marsh 63 off 43, Harris 42 off 32, Lamichhane 2/39 off 4)
Melbourne Stars 3/169 (Maxwell 83* off 45, Cartwright 35 off 21, Patel 1/21 off 4)

 

Best on ground:

 

  1. Glenn Maxwell (Stars) – 83* off 45, 0/20 off 3
  2. Nick Larkin (Stars) – 33* off 28
  3. Shaun Marsh (Renegades) – 63 off 43

 

*Unthinkable as it is nowadays, Maxwell represented the Melbourne Renegades in the first BBL season.

 

 

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About

I write about sports, mostly Australian football and cricket. Particularly focused on the statistical side of the game.

Comments

  1. Warren Tapner says

    I despised BBL cricket – until the first time Glenn Maxwell square cut a fast ball for six over deep point, and Melbourne Stars matches became compulsory viewing.

  2. Maxi just seems to not grasp his opportunities. Someone like Labuschagne and even Head take theirs. Starring in the BBL is one thing… performing at a World Cup is another. But, sure Maxi has boxoffice appeal to burn!

  3. Warren
    I agree . He hits the ball in an impossible unbelievable way and is the great entertainer that you just don’t want to see go out. And he is a local boy from South Belgrave for whom I played both Cricket and Football for around 65 years ago when the cricket pitch was a mat on a levelled patch of dirt and there were no helmets.
    The ignorence of the selectors is unbelievable.
    I watch whenever he is in a team.
    Excellent subject
    Stab Punt Jim Johnson

  4. Interesting Nick. I can concur with Warren’s opening sentence, though i’d leave the d off the end of despised.

    More importantly to me is Maxwell’s lack of opportunities in the Australian test side. What’s the most consecutive tests he’s played; three?

    I often think of what could have been, might have been, if Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscomb had the surname Marsh, being the son(s) of a former Australian opener. When you think of the amount of chances, time , Australian selectors give some, but not others, in the test team. No, it makes you wonder.

    Glen!

  5. Hi Nick
    Thanks for raising the subject of the great Glen Maxwell. How did I omit saying he is almost worthy of a game just because of his fielding. He sets the standard of world class in the field. He takes the almost impossible catch, saves runs and is an excellent BBL team captain.
    Thanks again for Glen Maxwell.
    Stab Punt Jim Johnson

  6. Paul Spinks says

    Thanks, Nick: I’m not a great fan of BBL, but there are moments in it I like, such as Rauf’s emergence and hat trick, and Maxwell’s batting.
    I reckon Glen has been treated badly by national selectors, partly due to a perception, or prejudice, created by some tv commentators who appear to be selective about which players they promote.

  7. I agree with most of what you say, Nick.
    I am an unabashed Maxwell fan. His past two BBL innings have been superb, and I am hoping for the same tonight.

    I walk most mornings with a former Test player who is of the belief that the scheduling of contemporary cricket has cruelled Maxi’s chances of having a run at a Test spot. To wit, Maxwell has played only 67 first class matches in 11 seasons (including county cricket stints at Yorkshire and Lancashire). The issue being that he was always required for meaningless ODI tournaments, meaning he never gets a solid block of Shield cricket to push his case.

  8. Maxie is a sheer delight to watch. Being able to improvise for any delivery enables him to score at will. He would be a nightmare to bowl to with the tremendous power his bat swing generates. A once in a lifetime player. Taking a few deliveries to get the lie of the land before he launches has seen him in good stead. What an entertainer. In my humble opinion he should be in the Australian ODI team.

    Like Smokie, I would love to see Maxie more in Shield Cricket, I’m sure more people would turn up the see the Big Show instead of the usual 2 men , a lady and a brown dog to see him play.

  9. John Butler says

    Onya Nick.

    If a talent like Maxwell ends his career as nothing more than an entertainer in the white ball circus, it will be one of the great wastes in Australian cricket history. And it will say a lot about the direction the game has gone.

  10. He is a freak, Nick, no doubt about it. The most entertaining batsman to watch in the BBL. A couple of thoughts about him and his non-selection that might descend into conspiracy:
    – as you say he is the marquee player of the BBL in a season where the Stars have almost nothing but primetime slots. Perhaps, Cricket Australia and Channel 7 were both able to see Maxwell doing more good on primetime fta TV than on Foxtel in the middle of the night.
    – the Australian team under discussion atm is the ODI team. He was given an extended run in the ODI team in 2019 and repeatedly failed on the biggest stage. In the past selectors have been criticised for selecting players based on form in a different format (forgetting, of course, that Nathan Lyon’s pathway to Test cricket came through T20 performances). They can’t win (although some of the players they are sending to India are a tad baffling).
    – was surprised to hear him last year when interviewed on the Final Word podcast say that he doesn’t go to the gym much. Given his preparation has been a criticism in the past, if an international career is what he wants, why is he not preparing himself in the manner that would be expected?

    Great to see BBL writing on the Footy Almanac!

  11. Nick great subject and while,Maxi hasn’t helped himself at times in the v limited test opportunities he has received the fact he hasn’t played a test match at home is bizarre to say the least,Smokie has nailed it above also re lack of 1st class cricket.I truly fear,Alex Carey is headed in the same direction played,2 shield games in season,18-19 and yes imagine if Maxi last name was,Marsh

  12. I’m with ya Nick, tht display of hitting on Friday night was breathtaking. The way Maxy launches into the ball is a sight to behold.

    He should be one of the first players selected in all three formats. He scored a test century in India, don’t forget. Okay, only averages 27 odd, but has only played 6 or 7 tests. I don’t think those stats reek of failure, maybe a tad underwhelming, sure, but surely you have to give a man of such talent 10-15 tests to find out where he stands. He could really swing a test batting at 6 or 7 in the same way Gilly could swing a test with a quick counter-attacking. His off-spinners and fielding also very handy too.

    Re his ODI status, he was star in 2015 World Cup – hope we haven’t forgotten that already – and in 2019 he was batting way down the order, not sure you can hang that man for that. He should bat at no. 4 or 5 in the ODI team.

    And I agree with Rulebook – Carey must be played asap. What a waste of talent.

  13. Peter Warrington says

    Maxwell averaged 64 and struck at 182 – yes 182 – in the 2015 World Cup. that should make him a selection for life.

    i genuinely believe he was batting to instruction in the 2019 edition. they had a top order of accumulators, and Carey below. so Maxwell’s brief was to explode – he struck at 200 for his first 10 balls when the tourny average was about 70. his was the kickstart against Bangladesh and others.

    he was unlucky in the pool game against england, he smashed Archer out of the attack and then wafted at a slow wide one he could have sent to Wales. role confusion. yes he wouldn’t have loved a bigger score but coming in with 10 overs left and the RR at about 5 means you have to go go go. averaging 22 but striking at 150 is neither a pass nor a fail.

    but Hohns and Langer (and Smith?) are always looking for a chance to drop him, and to pot him publicly. despite his break from the game, coming as it did after his T20 masterclass in Australian colours.

    picking labuschagne and Turner just says, between World cUps, we like our guys and test guys in their boosting their confidence with centuries and consistency – remember when good test guys used to average 45 but 35 in ODI because they were trying to score more quickly… now mediocre test players average 40 in tests but almost 50 in ODI because there is little pressure at the top of the order. not so easy in the middle order.

    the ultimate insult… D’Arcy Short being added to the India squad after an injury. Because he is versatile with the bat. and can bowl… Short averages less that 30 and strikes at 80 in ODI. and he isn’t a better bowler than Maxwell. and nobody is a better fielder… and Maxwell was on fire in the Bash at that stage and Short in poor form… but Hohns and Langer (and Smith?) are always looking for a chance to drop him, and to pot him publicly

  14. Peter Warrington says

    PS Dave Brown don’t mistake not going to the gym for not preparing well. he is probably the hardest trainer in the country, spending hour after hour perfecting 5 or 6 shots for each ball. google “Mad Maxi” if you want to have a few BigShowEsque preconceptions smasherised

  15. I was at the ‘Gabba the night that Maxwell left his first ball by shouldering arms and turning to see it smash into his stumps during a BBL match. Even the partisan Queensland crowd used to to “Lynn sanity batting heroics” gasped, it was almost as if the crowd wanted to see fireworks from him and then they cheered as he walked off bemused. He is the best fieldsman all round the ground except perhaps for Jonty Rhodes at point in his heydey Clive Lloyd in the covers David Boon at Bat bad and mark waugh in the slips. Just a freak that the sport needs to treat better full stop.

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