Robert Dillon: Sporting Declaration

THAT didn’t take long.

Just as the men who hand out the Baggy Greens were enjoying some rare kudos after the Ashes-series demolition of England, their handling of Glenn Maxwell has created yet another perplexing situation for cricket fans and, undoubtedly, the man himself.

Maxwell always has been, and probably always will be, a frustrating enigma. 

ENIGMATIC: Glenn Maxwell can be inconsistent but, at his best, he has been a matchwinner at international level. Picture: AAP

ENIGMATIC: Glenn Maxwell can be inconsistent but, at his best, he has been a matchwinner at international level. Picture: AAP

But it was widely assumed after the Test series in India last March that he had finally matured as a player and was ready to realise his potential.

Instead it now seems he is further from the national team than ever.

After winning a recall, he scored a patient century in Ranchi, his first at Test level, followed up with a 45 in the next game and then added a further 100 runs, three times out, in the two-Test series in Bangladesh.

It might not have been enough to guarantee a spot for the series opener against the Poms at the Gabba, but Maxwell presumably felt at least a tad disappointed when Shaun Marsh was reinstated for the umpteenth time.

Selectors told the Victorian to return to Sheffield Shield and put some scores on the board, and he responded with 278 and 96 in consecutive games.

With 590 runs at 73.75, he is the leading scorer in the Shield this season.

Selectors, of course, are entitled to be delighted with the returns from Marsh and his brother Mitchell, both of whom scored two centuries against England to justify their positions.

But who is to say that Maxwell would not have scored just as heavily, at an even quicker rate?

It is hard to imagine the Poms welcoming him to the crease with Australia 4-200.

Moreover, the theory that Mitchell Marsh would provide back-up for Australia’s front-line bowlers returned a dividend of 0-132 over three Tests.

Nonetheless, it is hard to argue with the 4-0 series result and hence selectors deserve their share of credit.

Where it becomes debatable is after Maxwell’s exclusion from the one-day international squad. As a white-ball player, there are few in the world who offer such a valuable all-round package.

When he was initially left out, skipper Steve Smith made pointed comments along the lines of Maxwell needing to “train a little bit smarter”.

Meanwhile, Chris Lynn was ruled out with injury and Maxwell – after scoring 50, 33 and 60 in his past three Big Bash League innings – appeared a logical replacement option.

Instead 34-year-old Cameron White was hauled out of mothballs, almost three years after chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns declared: “Cameron has had plenty of opportunities ... and it's probably fair to say performed OK without being earth-shattering.”

White is undoubtedly a good player, but is he any better now than he was three years ago? 

All this is unfolding, of course, a year out from the next 50-over World Cup. At the last such tournament, Maxwell played a key role in Australia’s victory.

The cold shoulder he has received this season, combined with Smith’s public criticism, create the impression that Maxwell is not being judged on his cricketing ability alone.

It was little more than a year ago that he found himself on the outer after being fined by his peers for “disrespecting” a teammate.

His crime, on that occasion, was to admit it was “a bit painful” when he was listed below acting skipper Matthew Wade in the Victorian batting line-up.

Speaking on ABC radio during the recent fourth Test, Maxwell himself admitted:  “Maybe sometimes I rub people up personally a little bit different. I am a bit outspoken and a bit opinionated.” 

He would certainly not be the first player to pay a high price for his individuality.

The international career of his Melbourne Stars teammate Kevin Pietersen was cut four or five years short when England management decided he was a destabilising influence.

Yet there is nothing in the laws of cricket that stipulates players on the same team have to be best of friends.

The great Sir Donald Bradman, in particular, reportedly rarely socialised with members of his team, even if they respected his unique ability to help them win games.

As Fairfax Media columnist Dean Jones wrote last week: “Maxwell has no state teammates within the national team who understand his personality and character.

“Who does Maxwell go to when he is down in confidence? Who is prepared to throw him some extra balls in the nets?

“Maxwell needs someone to show him some love. He needs people to guide him through this rocky period.”

Smith said on Friday that “the selectors have come out and said that he probably hasn't done enough in the last 20 games”.

But Maxwell averages almost 30 in his past dozen ODI innings, with a strike rate better than a run a ball. 

It could be argued that Maxwell’s exclusion is a case where the selectors have abided by the wishes of the skipper and perhaps even the coach, who deserve input into the make-up of the squad.

But the bottom line, surely, is Maxwell is a proven big-game player and in the best form of his career. The only winners out of this whole unseemly business are Australia’s opposition.


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