Some of Glenn Maxwell’s early memories of the Wankhede Stadium may not be too fond. In 2013, the rising Aussie had become a star Mumbai Indians recruit for the Indian Premier League (IPL), making headlines in India for the $1 million buyout. Largely warming the bench, he played just three matches before moving on to another franchise. Mumbai got to witness precious little of their million-dollar baby.
A decade on, Maxwell returned to the heart of Mumbai and walked off (hobbled off, rather) having given those present at the Wankhede a billion-dollar experience.
If an unbeaten 201 chasing 292 with Australia’s backs to the wall and his own legs giving up wasn’t the Big Show — as Maxwell is fondly called — in full glory, then what is?
A lot like the waves of his IPL career that found its crest with Kings XI Punjab (2014) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (2021 onwards) amid plenty of trough, Maxwell’s 50-overs World Cup journey with Australia has been somewhat enigmatic. Strikingly hot when hot, shockingly cold when cold.
Two years after raking in that eye-popping figure in world cricket’s richest league, Maxwell was picked to play his first World Cup. That victorious Australia, under Michael Clarke, had few chinks in the armour, and Maxwell fit in perfectly as the big-hitting weapon in the middle and lower order. On those Australian pitches, Maxwell felt at home, smashing 324 runs in six innings striking at over 180 and averaging just under 65 with a 53-ball 102 against Sri Lanka.
Four years later, Maxwell arrived for the 2019 World Cup in England having grown in experience and stature in the Australian set up. Not playing so, though. There were those quintessential cameos — 46* off 25 against Sri Lanka, 28 off 14 against India, 32 off 10 against Bangladesh — but nothing substantial. Maxwell had just 177 runs in 10 outings to show, and Australia a semi-final finish.
Over the last couple of years, Maxwell has managed to sprinkle some consistency on his sparkling talent; add a semblance of method to the magic and madness. His three years with RCB since 2021 reflect that (striking over at least 140, his average hasn’t dropped below 27 any season).
And in a World Cup in India where every Australian middle-order batter has been below par, Maxi has stood up for his team like only he can. If the hundred against Netherlands — the fastest ever in World Cup history — two games ago dazzled you, the double hundred against Afghanistan — the first ever by an Australian male in ODIs — left you dazed.
Two of his three World Cup centuries have come in this edition; the 2015 one walking in at No. 5 and the 2023 couples at No. 6. That makes him the only player in a men’s World Cup to notch up two or more centuries batting at No. 5 or below.
With 397 runs in seven matches (Avg: 79.40, SR: 152.69), Maxwell sits just below David Warner in Australia’s top run-getters’ list in this World Cup. Far from an enigma, he’s been an exception to Australia’s middle-order collapses trend.
Like he was on Tuesday, holding Australia’s innings and semi-finals hopes together from 91/7 even as his body was fast disintegrating. Even as his legs were giving away, his hands and head held firm. The 21 fours and 10 sixes may beg to differ, but it wasn’t all mindset hitting. With 81 needed off 84, Afghanistan brought in Rashid Khan who had three overs left. With the tactic of negating their strike bowler, Maxwell hit just one six off Rashid’s remaining balls.
The others weren’t spared. If they bowled full, Maxwell created the depth in his crease to swat them. If they bowled a tad wide, Maxwell reverse-lapped them for boundaries. Even Pat Cummins, his batting partner at the other end of that classic partnership who happens to be among the world’s premier fast bowlers, would empathise with the Afghan bowlers at the receiving end of Maxi fury.
“I kind of put myself in the bowler’s shoes and think what are your options here. And when someone’s running hot like that, and it’s a good wicket, especially for pace bowlers, you don’t have much you can do really. He (Maxwell) just creates such angles; even outside off he can get it over fine leg somehow. He’s as good hitting straight as anyone else in the world,” Cummins said. “It’s just incredible the amount of control and how cleanly he hits it for the amount of different shots he has. So, you just sit there and admire it.” Like we all did.