Amit Mishra’s first three balls to Glenn Maxwell in the Hyderbad vs Punjab game were a googly, a well-flighted leg-spinner and a flat faster one on the pads.
The leggie’s variations, though, failed to keep the batsman down. Maxwell’s run count went up by 18 as each of those balls went over the mid-wicket boundary.
So when Karn Sharma, Hyderabad’s leggie No.2, came to bowl after Mishra’s expensive over, the patrol on the leg-side was strengthened and the square boundary on the off-side was left vacant. Now, Maxwell reverse swept a boundary past point. Then, he sent the ball over the boundary in his favourite scoring area — cow corner.
It was a kind of assault that breaks the bowlers’ heart and the will of the fielding captain. Over the years, Indian spinners, when bowling on slow and low tracks, have given Australian batsmen nightmares.
But this time things have changed. This Aussie is different. So far in the IPL, Maxwell leads the run charts and has hit the most sixes, dealing easily both spin and pace.
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So what has worked for Maxwell? To start with, Maxwell sets out to dominate the slow bowlers. One of his vital strength is that Maxwell has a shot no matter which length the spinners choose. Anything on the off-middle area is generally slogged over midwicket. When the ball is on the middle-leg line, Maxwell steps out to hit it over the bowler’s head.
Left with little options, bowlers, as was the case with both Mishra and Sharma, spear it down leg. To counter this, Maxwell has brought out the reverse sweep, sometimes hitting it over thirdman or point. Even R Ashwin suffered the same fate, with Maxwell reverse sweeping his carrom ball which pitched outside leg, for four.
In most cases, bowlers, frustrated by the fierce assault, try to bowl quicker. It simply plays into Maxwell, who dispatches the darts with the perfect bat swing.
The bowlers so far have bowled to his strength, hoping Maxwell trips up. However, the fielders have left these chances slip — Maxwell was dropped early in two of the three innings so far. Another ploy could be for bowlers to keep the ball full and outside off stump, cosidering Maxwell’s tendency to move to leg and clear his front foot.
The particular delivery will leave him out of position as he reaches for the ball. But as has happened so far, it is easier said than done.
Siddhartha is a senior correspondent based in New Delhi.