Glenn Maxwell insists he is better equipped to handle the short-pitched bowling he can expect to face on his return to Australia’s ODI team for the first time since last year’s World Cup, having refreshed his mind and renewed his outlook after taking a much-publicised mental health break at the start of the summer.
Back in October, Maxwell was not “getting a lot of enjoyment out of his cricket” in the words of national team coach Justin Langer, and gradually found a way back through time at home, club cricket, a Big Bash League campaign as captain of the Melbourne Stars, and now a recall for both the T20I and ODI squads to travel to South Africa later this month.
The sorts of pitches and bowlers Maxwell can expect to face across the Indian Ocean are very relevant to the technical and tactical challenge he faced in improving his play against the short stuff, something that Langer had, in typically blunt and honest fashion, spoken publicly about at the back end of a World Cup campaign in which the 31-year-old had failed to exert the sort of influence his outrageous talent demanded. A clearer mind and surer feet should help, as they have done during a BBL the Stars are still fighting to win.
“I think I’ve shown during this BBL that it doesn’t really faze me that much at the moment,” Maxwell said of the short ball. “I know that in one-day cricket you get a few extra bumpers an over, that’s fine. But it was probably something I did need to address, and when you have so much scrutiny it can be quite wearing on you. You’re trying hard, trying to find a way to fix it.
“I think I’ve come back a fresher player, being able to work out things off the field and get mentally right to perform and play well without any sort of mental scars going on behind and just be able to concentrate on the things that actually matter”
“I was well aware that I felt confident against the short ball, I knew I kept on getting out but I felt confident against it, so it was sort of a Catch-22, when you try to take it on and getting out to it. I just feel like I’m a bit better at being able to deal with it, choosing which ones to score off and which ones to play, and that does come back to being a bit more still and being able to make a more calculated decision at the crease.
“It is probably as simple as getting back to trying to be as still as possible. There might still be some movements but there’s not as big a pre-movement, there’s not as much anxiety around trying to get myself off the mark or get into the game, it’s just being a bit more calm and just remembering the sole focus is to watch the ball and deal with it as best you can.”
That calm, focused attitude applies to the season as a whole as much as it does to every ball Maxwell faces. He stressed that he had perhaps looked too far ahead during 2019, creating mental hurdles for himself that did not necessarily need to be there, and subsequently resolved not to worry about Australian selection until it actually took place.
“I wouldn’t say I pencilled anything in this year,” he said. “Last year and where I got to mentally, I probably thought ahead a lot, I thought deep into the future and all of a sudden you stop thinking about the now. I’ve literally just been going – as bad a cliché as it is – one game at a time and just making sure I’m putting 100% of my concentration and energy into the next game that I play and I think that’s been showing dividends.
“With guys being more open and more honest, being able to actually have the honest conversation that I’m not feeling right, not feeling ok and it being accepted that it’s ok to feel that way. You still need the support behind you from all the boards to grant you the time away and to have that time to get yourself right. It is nice that other cricketers around the world are accepting and supportive of people in that space.
“I knew if I could get things right that I had a game that’s good enough to play at any level and when you’ve got so much going on behind the scenes and in the back of your mind or whatever it might be, to finally clear that away and just concentrate on the things that matter is a sign that it was the right move.”
Maxwell will be welcomed back into the Australian set-up, not only the T20I side in which he has always been a central performer, but also the ODI line-up, which is being put together with a longer-term view in mind – the next World Cup in India in 2023.
“I’ve always felt extremely comfortable in that T20 side and I feel like I’ve performed extremely well especially over the last three or four years in that squad and been able to get a specific role in that side and be quite welcomed in the way I go about that role, bat No. 4 for Australia,” Maxwell said. “The one-day side there’s been a bit more of a shift and I’ve been up and down the order a fair bit, but the reason behind this is a bit more of a spot on role that they want me to play.
“I think I’ve come back a fresher player, being able to work out things off the field and get mentally right to perform and play well without any sort of mental scars going on behind and just be able to concentrate on the things that actually matter.
“Hopefully a far better prepared one and a far fresher one and I’ve got a really good understanding of what I need to do to be successful and how to bat well. I feel like I’ve shown that on numerous times during this BBL, I’ve been able to think my way through situations and be quite calm in different positions and hopefully I can bring that to the Australian side.”