Please don’t let the Big Show go to waste, like KP
Geoff Lemon, from ABC radio, explains that Glenn Maxwell is being treated similarly to a former England star...
Australia loves stealing from England. The Westminster system, rhyming slang, most of the population of Bondi. Some things we’ve been smart enough to leave: potted tongue and spotted dick sound more like medical conditions than food. Some of our own things we donate back, like Clive James. But mostly we steal, which is coincidentally why a lot of us ended up here in the first place.
Some stolen things get improved: cricket got entertainment, beer got refrigeration. But even within cricket, we steal from England. Admittedly we mostly steal Australians, like Rod Marsh or Troy Cooley, only it’s a bit like online shopping: once they arrive they rarely do the thing we hoped they would.
Mostly we steal from English cricket when ours is at a low ebb. In this era those ebbs come along every couple of years. We lose a few games, have a crisis and a review, then pilfer some gear from the Old Dart and start over.
This time the crisis was in Hobart. The cause was South Africa. So what did we decide to steal from English cricket? Their way of dealing with Kevin Pietersen.
You know the formula: take a cricketer with obscene talent, decide that their possession of a personality is in contravention of the Bland Sportsman’s Playbook, complain that their lack of herd mentality is a failure of personal ethics, privately alienate and publicly chastise them, corrode their enjoyment of the sport and their feeling of stability. With any luck, their skill can soon be lost to a worldwide audience for good, or at least relegated to the Guyana Jungle Titan R2D2 Spartan Legions in one or another of the cashfor-bash leagues around the world.
Pietersen’s was a totally understandable mix-up: a stranger to English accents, he had always misheard that cricket was a genital-man’s game, and so sent an Afrikaans text message to South African players describing laugha-minute skipper Andrew Strauss as a complete Sophia Gardens. That precipitated years of unease, with Pietersen eventually eased out for no more concrete reason than that Alastair Cook thought him a bit of a knob.
Australia’s ruckus-centre is Glenn Maxwell. The ‘Big Show’ invents new shots like Doc Brown does time machines, he burns through matches at strike rates over 200, his bowling successfully defended two runs in the last over of an ODI, and if he’s not the best fieldsman in the world then he’s the best exponent of the tandem midair boundary-line dolphin-leap flick-back catch. He’s also running drinks for Australia after mild criticism of state captain and national teammate Matthew Wade in a Press conference.
England’s display was masterful: they had the KP Trial, the KP Truth & Reconciliation Commission, and the KP Re-Integration Period, aided greatly by the fact that he scored a pantsload of runs in Asia and won them some Tests. But after the 2013-14 spanking in Australia, clearly the disruptive influence of their top run-scorer for the series was to blame. First England said KP was banished forever, then that he could get back by weight of runs, then they repeated the first two steps about 18 times before settling on Step 2, at which point he made a triple-century and they reverted to Step 1. The final call was made by the new and totally impartial director of cricket, who was also by sheer coincidence Andrew Strauss.
Australia, with some help from state side Victoria, could yet out-do England’s managerial ineptitude. It started with a general distrust of Maxwell’s approach, in which his brand of strokeplay is seen as a moral failing. In June, Maxwell put Australia into a tri-series final in the Caribbean by scoring 46 from 26 balls to seal a run chase in the second-last over. One innings later, he was dropped from the Sri Lankan ODI tour for apparently not making enough runs.
He arrived in Sri Lanka for two T20s, making 145 not out from 65 balls (the second-highest Australian score) and 66 from 29 balls (the equal-fastest Australian fifty), then was left out of the ODI tour to South Africa. In the meantime, state team Victoria blocked his request to move to New South Wales to seek batting opportunities. “Glenn is an integral member of the Bushrangers squad,” was the statement from management, which then promptly dropped him. Named as 12th man, a 13th player was drafted ahead of Maxwell from outside the squad when there was an injury during the warm-up.
Either Maxwell was left out because he’s a non-essential player, meaning he should have been allowed to move, or he was left out as punishment for requesting the transfer. Same
Maxwell invents new shots like Doc Brown does time machines, and if he’s not the best fielder in the world then he’s the best exponent of the tandem mid-air boundary-line dolphinleap flick-back catch
in the national set-up, where apparently he was given a “clean slate” after being fined for the Wade comments, then wasn’t picked for the next two games. Would he have been picked otherwise? Media reps don’t usually put up peripheral squad players for the preview Press conference. For all the similarities with KP, there are big differences. For one, Australia isn’t alienating a mid-30s player on the sunset stroll, but a 28-year-old at his theoretical peak. At stake is an entire career. For another, Pietersen definitely comes across as the more difficult personality. Teammates of Maxwell’s describe him as an excellent team character, and the showmanship of his batting doesn’t translate into a swollen off-field ego. Maxwell was asked about frustration with his place in Victoria’s batting order. He answered honestly. If that reflected badly on Wade, put it down to Wade’s actions. If your actions can’t bear discussion, the problem likely lies with you. It’s the latest and most significant in a series of mishandlings of Maxwell’s career. He is too talented and too valuable to go the way of Pietersen. Let’s steal something else instead.
Waste of talent: Glenn Maxwell is outspoken but should that mean the end of his international career?
Outcast: KP was banished from the England set-up