Glenn Maxwell takes batting to a rarefied realm

First, the usual caveats.

Glenn Maxwell could have been dismissed at least four times in the first forty deliveries he faced against Afghanistan in Mumbai on Tuesday.

On the very first ball he faced, a hat-trick delivery, he edged Azmatullah Omarzai behind, with the ball not carrying to the wicket-keeper. When he was on 27, confusion prevailed between Rashid Khan and Afghan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi, leading to a top-edge falling between the two.

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A few deliveries later, he was adjudged leg-before-wicket to Noor Ahmad and was almost about to walk off when the Decision Review System came back, showing the ball going surprisingly over the stumps. And then perhaps, the most shocking reprieve – Mujeeb Ur Rahman dropping an absolute dolly at square leg.

In between, he ran out his partner Marnus Labuschangne over a misjudged single.


The “Big Show”, in the truest sense

Other batters might have quelled their natural verve under these circumstances. 91/7, semi-final spot at stake, only the No. 9 for company, Afghanistan and the entire Wankhede Stadium braying for a supercharged upset.

But really, Glenn Maxwell is special. “The Big Show” in the truest sense.

The shot to sum up his “believe-it-or-not” knock came deep in the innings. Australia were 249/7 in the 44th over, needing 43 off 40. Maxwell was hobbling – a couple of overs earlier, he had fallen flat on the ground after taking a run. Adam Zampa, the next batter in, was on the boundary line. And somehow, Maxwell picked himself up and carried on. It was agony to watch him play.

Afghanistan would have thought they finally had something going for them. As the commentators on air pointed out, they needed to bowl wide of the crease. Go outside Maxwell’s hitting area. Make him use his feet, make him reach for the ball. Make him stretch.

Stand and deliver

That’s probably what Omarzai was thinking. He brought up mid-off. The intention was telegraphed. The ball was coming on a fifth or sixth stump line. Omarzai would have wanted Maxwell to reach for it, put himself in greater pain and hopefully, give away his wicket.

What did Maxwell do? Go back and watch it, because you can keep watching it over and over again. The moment the ball left Omarzai’s hands, Maxwell changed stance in a millisecond and reverse-swept it away for six over deep third man. As cool as a cucumber. As easy as anything you like. It was an unsaid message to the bowler and the opposing team, “I might be hurt and I might be hobbling but it still doesn’t matter. You can bowl anywhere you want at me and I’ll still pick you off”.

In his seminal autobiography “Out of My Comfort Zone”, Steve Waugh wrote about the existence of “the zone”. It’s that rare feeling, he wrote, when a batter reaches a supernatural, rarefied state The ball is coming on, the gaps are easily apparent and you’re able to predict what the bowler is bowling.

Uncomplicated, brutal batting at its very best

On Tuesday, Glenn Maxwell was in the “zone”. Even when he was battered and bruised, unable to even take a run, he was smashing 140 kmph deliveries to all corners of the ground. He stood still, didn’t move his feet and ran his bat through. And that’s all there is to it. The hallmark of some of the greatest-ever knocks is how easy the batter makes batting look. Gone are the complications of placing the ball in the gap correctly, picking the right bowler to attack or getting to the pitch of the ball. The art of batting becomes dangerously uncomplicated – see ball, hit ball.

To the critics who moan that this can’t qualify as the greatest ODI knock ever mainly because of the number of chances at the beginning, you have to ask them, have you ever seen a great knock that was chanceless? You could even argue that the number of chances elevated this knock – once, Maxwell had shed the fear of getting out, he unlocked batting to its truest, simplest, sweetest form.

201 not out in a team total of 293, with the second-highest score being only 24. Taking the team to a victory from 91/7. Maxwell was never gone, but he’s back. And he’s proved another old truism – never, ever, ever, ever write Australia off.

Move over Bazball. This is Maxball!

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