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...

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

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.

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.