If you were going to pick a player for young players to copy, Glenn Maxwell’s insane, unorthodox style makes him low on the list.
Yet he’s also insanely exciting and effective. He wins matches, he demoralises bowlers and he plays with the joy and freedom of a kid in the backyard.
That’s what batting is all about. So why not use him as an example?
Here’s exactly how.
Play your way, despite the odds
Most people are taught to bat in certain, time-proven ways: Your bat is straight and the odds of success improve. Maxwell has put odds aside because he knows he can hit most any ball in most any direction with enough success to make it worthwhile.
Chances are that you don’t have the same range, but you can have success in the way that you play.
Let me give you an example: Recently I worked with a player who was poor on the sweep shot. He played with no confidence and often failed to make contact. When I asked him to reverse sweep he was a changed man. He nailed every one without fail. There was something about that shot that just felt right for him.
If I were to follow the traditional “play the odds” method of coaching, I would discourage the shot and go back to working on front foot drives and footwork. In the Maxwell mould, we would spend more time turning the shot into a super-strength, working on the best time and field to use it and make it a shot the player can feel he can play when the situation dictates.
The result; greater confidence in batting all round, less of a feeling of being restricted to “playing properly” and more runs, especially against spinners who fail to put a man behind square.
Be where the fielder isn’t
Speaking of field settings, there is a saying that most martial arts are the uncanny ability to be where your opponent’s strike isn’t.
Batting Maxwell-style is very similar.
Instead of playing shots, Maxwell plays fields. He hits over short third man with a reverse sweep. He goes inside-out to go over cover. He hits the ball in the air because he knows he only needs to clear the infield, not always the rope.
You can do this too by working out what shots you can play well to hit the ball away from fielders. This is a different mind set to working on a drive for the sake of driving. You may end up playing a drive, but it’s the perspective that is all important.
Here’s another personal example; I am no means a Glenn Maxwell but I am stronger on the leg side than the off. When I am faced with a medium paced bowler I know that I can use my feet to move down the wicket and across to off stump. From here I know I can play the ball into any gap between mid on and square leg (depending on the field). LBW is out of the running as I am down the pitch and hopefully outside the line.
This works well for me to work the gaps. You’ll probably have different areas to score, but the point is that you can think in fields rather than shots to worry less about technique and more about results.
Do your job
I have seen many criticisms of Maxwell, from the rashness of his play, to the fact he rarely faces more than a couple of dozen balls. These comments are ignoring something: He’s doing exactly what he is paid to do: Score quickly.
You can argue about how these skills stack up against all-time great players, but Maxwell is mighty effective at those skills and those skills are mighty important in T20 and ODI cricket.
Again, this might not be your skillset - although I would argue that most people can score quickly given some freedom - but it is a lesson for you. You can be the best at your job. That job might be to see off the new ball and grind out a boring 50 so the middle order can blaze it. Your job might be to come in at the death and slog everything for miles. Match your skill set to the expectations of your coach and captain and get on with making it all-powerful.
Understand, like Maxwell does, that you need to measure the important things. Balls faced is a minor factor for Glenn. Strike rate is a whole different story: Scoring 30 runs in the batting power play overs is what marks success more than getting a run a ball hundred. While your measure might be a ton in 150 balls, focus on what will let you best fill your role.
The bottom line is that Glenn Maxwell bats in a certain way that suits him.
If you emulate that principle, it makes no difference if the details are a long way from the way he bats, because you’re still following the Maxwell principles of playing hard, playing free and playing to your strengths.
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