#INDvAUS: Aussies will hope to ride on MaXwell factor against Kohli and Co – Despite being nowhere close to Test scene a couple of months ago, flamboyant all-rounder’s long work-out in Australia’s first training session in country indicates that visitors might be tempted to play him straightaway in first encounter against India in Pune next week
Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwel plays rugby during the team’s first training session after landing in India at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday (DNA – Salman Ansari)
December 2, 2016: "Are you going to pick a bloke that hasn't made 100 for two years?" Australia coach Darren Lehmann on Glenn Maxwell's Test chances.
January 15, 2017: Maxwell gets picked in Australia's Test squad for the tour of India.
So, what changed in a little over a month? Did the 'bloke' make hundreds? No. Did the 'bloke' score heaps of runs in first class cricket? No. Far from it, the 'bloke' was busy playing the Big Bash League and some One-Day cricket.
Maxwell's comeback into the Australian Test team can be attributed to a term that is loosely thrown around these days but that fits aptly in this case: X factor.
Why else would a guy who was dropped even by his state team Victoria in Australia's domestic Sheffield Shield in October get picked for the national Test team after a gap of more than two years?
What's more, going by their first training session on Indian soil in Mumbai on Wednesday ahead of the four-match series starting February 23, the Australian think-tank might draft their X factor into the playing XI straightaway.
Yes, that same 'bloke'.
After running around like a hare during Australia's warm-up session on Wednesday – a game of hand volleyball with a tennis ball – Maxwell hogged the spotlight during their fielding drills, hitting the stump on one occasion and celebrating like he'd affected a run out.
He then broke the pack and marched towards the three nets along with Australia's main spinners. The first net was occupied by their pacers, the second by their premier tweakers – Nathan Lyon, Steve O'keefe and Ashton Agar – and the third had Maxwell with leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson for company.
Maxwell bowled his off-spinners to Australia's top six batsmen throughout the length of that session under the watchful eyes of Australia's spin consultant for the tour, Sridharan Sriram, who was standing as the umpire.
In contrast to Australia's main off-spinner Nathan Lyon, Maxwell bowled predominantly from around the wicket, even to right-handers. He got the ball to beat the bat on a couple of occasions, and trapped the tall opener Matt Renshaw in front. Sriram raised his finger, much to the delight of Maxwell.
But it's what he did after his long bowling stint that completes the X factor.
Maxwell went back, padded up, and straightaway walked back to the nets again. Playing without a helmet, he belted a couple of net bowlers, and hoicked leggie Swepson over his head. Swepson stood unmoved, merely watching the ball sail towards the boundary.
It's precisely this reaction that Australia will hope to get out of the Indian spinners should they unleash Maxwell. The 28-year-old has played a lot of cricket in the country, thanks to the Indian Premier League. The right-handed basher was quite a hot proper in the league due to his exploits in the 2014 season for Kings XI Punjab, dazzling with his unique attractive shot-making.
He has since gone cold, but still knows the Indian conditions more than probably any other Australian player in this current squad.
Even a session of 'Big Show' – as Maxwell is nicknamed – could prove to be decisive in what Australia are so desperately seeking on this tour: a lot of runs. With Australia captain Steve Smith making it clear that it's upto each individual batsman to figure out a way to succeed in these conditions, Maxwell can deal with the Indian bowlers without having to change his natural game drastically.
Add to that the possibility of a couple of wickets off his off-spinners, and the X factor can get too tempting to be thrown into the mix right away.
In any case, the No. 6 spot in the visitors' batting order is lying vacant, and Australia might want to go in with a big-hitting all-rounder in Maxwell over a seaming all-rounder in Mitchell Marsh or a left-arm spinner who can bat a bit in Agar.
"I've said this for the last six-seventh months. I was really hoping to get a chance to get involved into the Test group in this India tour. And if I do get an opportunity, I hope to make the most of it," Maxwell told cricket.com.au on Wednesday.
Yes, that same 'bloke'.
DID YOU KNOW?
Glenn Maxwell's last Test for Australia was against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in October 2014
I'm not going to say anything to Kohli: Maxi
Australia captain Steve Smith might have said he wouldn't mind his players have a verbal duel with the Indians, but Glenn Maxwell is pretty clear about who he wants to stay away from in those battles. "I'm not going to say anything to him, that's for sure," Maxwell said when asked whether he would have a go at Virat Kohli on the field. "Virat is up and down, I suppose, with sledging. If you (strike) a chord with him, or something gets him agitated to play a big shot, then blokes are more than welcome to go for it. But at the moment, there's not much agitating him," he told cricket.com.au. Maxwell also said it would need just a stroke of bad luck for Kohli to get out of his current purple patch. "I don't think there's anything particular with technique or stuff like that. He's just so much at the top of his game at the moment. Guys can through a run of form like that where they get into a bit of a roll, and everything seems to click for them. That's happening to him at the moment. The thing with that is that it can just take one bit of either bad luck or an unfortunate dismissal that can sometimes trigger a little bit of indecision or doubt. So hopefully in the first couple of Tests we can create that doubt and get him wondering about his technique," Maxwell said.