April 10, 2021 1:07:58 pm
In his only outing of IPL-14, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s new signing Glenn Maxwell has already upgraded on his last season’s numbers on two counts. He struck two sixes against Mumbai Indians, one of his former franchises. In the last season, the usually effortless six-hitter had hit none. Besides, his fluent 39 bettered his previous season’s highest score of 32. Before the start of the tournament, his captain, Virat Kohli, had sensed Maxwell’s positive vibes. “I see a different energy about him this time,” he said on eve of the opening game against Mumbai Indians. So in case Royal Challengers Bangalore could unlock the Australian’s head-turning potential, this would be Maxwell’s season of liberation.
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Why is Royal Challengers Bangalore a better team for Maxwell?
Maxwell has never quite enjoyed being the centre of attraction, which came inevitably with hefty tags. He has withered under it and over-burdened himself with the pressure to perform and a fear of failure. It was most glaring in his stint with Kings XI Punjab, when every time he walked out to bat, he was expected to produce miracles. It was much the same in his stint with Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians. But it’s different in Bangalore, where the inexorable focus is on the Top Two – Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. He is one of the pillars, not the only one. He could bat pressure-free, aware that he has Kohli batting ahead of him and de Villiers behind him. He is not in the limelight or under scrutiny in the middle. “You don’t want to be the centre of attention all the time and I think that’s something that happened with Maxwell. There’s too much focus and attention on you,” Kohli had observed. This assurance releases pressure. And a pressure-free Maxwell is a lethal match-winner, as he had been with Australia in the T20s.
Moreover, there is a captain and coach (Simon Katich) who seem to trust and admire him. Both had continuously defended the decision to acquire him in the auction for a still whopping Rs 14.25 crore, despite his history of underperforming in the league, and in the immediacy of a terrible season wherein he managed only 108 runs in 11 innings at a strike rate of 101.88. “He is a highly experienced player and been in very good form in T20I for Australia. He also had pretty good BBL. So, he is that multi-purpose player that we were looking for. For these two, we knew that we had to spend a bit of money and we ended up doing that,” coach Katich had said in the past.
At his best, what does he bring to the side?
When the elements sync, he is a definite game-changer. He proved that in his relatively restrained knock of 39 from 28 balls against Mumbai Indians. He began slowly on a sluggish surface, then exploded, infusing impetus to the chase. He defused the threat posed by the spinners on a surface custom-made for them. He took the attack to Rahul Chahar, who was hammered for two fours and a six, while Krunal Pandya was belted for a six and a four. The onslaught came soon after the power-play, and in the final stocktaking of Bangalore’s chase, had significant influence.
Kohli said as much in his press conference: “Today you saw the result of him playing 10-15 balls, he’s a different player then. He just took the game away from the opposition in those middle overs, to be honest. His innings, I felt, in our partnership was that momentum changer and that made the job easier in the end.”
Is No 4 his best spot?
Where he would bat depends on match situations and teams are inclined to keep their batting order flexible. But No 4 seems the perfect spot for Maxwell to arrive, neither too early (unless there is a collapse) nor too late, where his talents go wasted or rather not fully utilised. Mumbai Indians were culpable of that during his time with them. But at No 4, he can get his eyes in, before summoning the big strokes. He can perform multiple roles—the middle-over marauder, death-over destroyer or that of a finisher. It gives him the base. The sheer reason that de Villiers is still to come would arm him with the licence to play his natural game and swat the worries aside. Middle overs (7 to 15) is a phase where they have lagged and Maxwell offers a fine solution. He did exactly that in the game against Mumbai Indians, ensuring that he not only sustained the tempo but lifted it. And there seems a genuine joy in the way he bats.
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