Without doubt, Glenn Maxwell has been the shining light of the early stages of this year’s Indian Premier League - but is this sparkling form a mere flash in the pan or the beginning of something bigger?
In successive chases the Australian has produced mind-boggling displays of 360 degree power-hitting, firstly scoring 95 off 45 balls in successful pursuit of 205 against Chennai Super Kings, before contributing a similarly brilliant 89 off 45 to help make light of the 191 set by the Rajasthan Royals. If that wasn’t enough he then made light of a Sunrisers Hyderabad attack perceived to be the best in the tournament – crashing 95 runs off 43 deliveries.
From the relatively early furlongs of his career Maxwell was identified for big things, making his international limited overs debut aged just 23 and with only minimal domestic exposure under his belt - prior to that bow he had already earnt a first IPL contract.
Throughout that early phase of his career Maxwell however struggled to utilise the clear talent, with his cricket being frustratingly typified by inconsistencies. There were glimpses of his talent, for instance the English domestic Twenty20 campaign of 2012, where Maxwell’s average of 45 at a strike rate of 176 were a significant factor in Hampshire’s successful campaign
But as if to highlight the frustration that was followed up by a year with Surrey where he averaged just 18 at a strike rate of only 125. The picture was much the same on the Australian domestic circuit – there were flashes of brilliance but these were few and far between.
Internationally the early story was also one personified by inconsistency – prior to the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy Maxwell averaged just 25 in One-Day Internationals with only two half-centuries in 11 games.
Granted he was not aided by Australia’s toils at the time, with the selectors struggling to identify the most suitable role for the Victorian – such has been their spinner famine that hopes were at one stage Maxwell could be utilised as a genuine off-spinning all-rounder.
So desperate were Australia that he was handed a Test debut in 2012 as the second spinner in India, that opportunity however came without question too early – unsurprisingly Maxwell struggled and averaged only 10 during that series, which resulted in the inevitable axe.
The last six months have, however, represented somewhat of a changing of the tide across all forms of the game. Maxwell averages 39.8 in his last 11 ODIs, while the recently concluded World Twenty20 is arguably the point at which he established himself as a pivotal component within the Australian limited overs set up.
As his more glorified team mates faltered Maxwell excelled, returning with an average of 37 and a remarkable strike rate of 210 – a number that could only be bettered by the brutality of Darren Sammy.
An innings of 74 off 33 balls against Pakistan, having arrived with his side teetering at eight for two in chase of 192, particularly signified somewhat of a breakthrough – despite Australia eventually losing.
In first-class cricket there have also been substantial strides, where an average of 45 in this year’s Sheffield Shield represented a significant improvement on an average of 23 a year previous. Together with that he scored two centuries, the second of which was delivered despite Victoria slumping to 32 for seven – Maxwell going on to make a stunning unbeaten 127 off just 102 deliveries.
Granted the game had gone but it’s hard not to be impressed by the manner in which those runs arrived, or by the fact that Maxwell could boast an overall season strike-rate of 76. A greater degree of consistency must be added over a prolonged period of time for Maxwell to be considered in the longest format, should he however prove himself on a regular basis then such is his unique game changing ability then he would be difficult to ignore.
Undoubtedly this could just be a mere purple patch but at 25 it is likely that we are beginning to see Maxwell mature as a batsman, as we have seen in the past players in his free-scoring flashy ilk do tend to develop at a slightly slower pace than more textbook batsman such is the risk involved in their batting.
Such developments have been clear to see in recent times, not just in regards to consistency but in terms of both batting conviction and shot-making ability.
Maxwell is far from the finished article, but as we have witnessed in these initial stages of the IPL he is a player with unrivalled x-factor – such is the mesmerising array of shots in his artillery, that the opposition bowlers were left in a state of complete bewilderment.
Should his current rich vein prove more than a false dawn, Maxwell might just be ready fulfil the potential and take his place one of the most feared batsman in the short format of the game.
© Cricket World 2014