The allrounder has a calmness about his game: “I’m not overthinking stuff…it’s all automatic”
“I was extremely fortunate to have two of the greats of the game in the same team and in the same batting line-up who were open to share their experiences and talk to me about their game,” Maxwell said. “It makes you feel 10 feet tall when you’ve got their backing and they’re watching you, they’re asking you questions and it just makes you feel confident, it makes you feel happy.”
Royal Challengers Bangalore assistant coach Adam Griffith told ESPNcricinfo that those conversations with Kohli and de Villiers were on another level.
“When you see the best in the world when they’re together, it’s amazing the conversations they have and they’re on a different level,” Griffith said. “The type of conversation is different to a normal player. They move past the basics of the game to those extra little one or two-percent things that can mean the difference between having a good innings or not. The way they talk about the game, it’s great to sit and watch them.”
Now Maxwell’s challenge is to try and translate that form into World Cup success for Australia. There is a huge burden of expectation externally on Maxwell’s shoulders, but the man himself has a calmness and clarity about his upcoming role.
“I’m not overthinking stuff once I get in-game,” he said. “It’s all automatic. I’m trying to play against the conditions and the opposition and that’s all I’m thinking about. It’s not [a case of] if I play well, we’re going to win a World Cup. There’s no thoughts of that. It’s just if I’m in a contest, I’ll give my best on the day, and then I’m sure that will be a positive impact on the team.”
His ability to read the conditions so quickly in the difficult middle overs role was what impressed RCB the most. Maxwell has an excellent record in T20 cricket in the UAE with eight half-centuries in 31 innings at a strike-rate of 146.26. He will be set to bat No. 4 for Australia, or more specifically post the powerplay as he did for RCB, and will be pivotal to Australia’s chances. Maxwell said the key to that role in the UAE was taking the time in the middle to understand how each surface in the UAE was playing.
“I think it just takes a little bit more time to soak in a bit of information. I think you can get to Australia and bat in that time [the middle overs], and you can probably go a lot earlier, you can try and hit boundaries a lot earlier. It just takes like a few extra balls to actually get used to what’s facing you out there. I think having spent a fair bit of time in the middle over the last month and a bit has really helped me sort of start to get used to that and get used to the pace of the game and pace the wickets.”
RCB also gave him a leadership role. Having thrived in the captaincy role at Melbourne Stars, RCB were keen to utilise his experience in the field.
“Having a bit of responsibility around the group out in the field and he’d speak really well in team meetings,” Griffith said. “Giving him that responsibility to lead different parts of the group fielding positions and making sure everyone’s where they need to be, driving that intensity in the field is a big one for him as well and I think his preparation was great.”
Maxwell also played his part with the ball in the IPL after doing a lot of technical work on his bowling with both Craig Howard in Victoria during his off-season, and RCB and Australia spin coach Sridharan Sriram, particularly on bowling to right-handers.
“We actually had a bit of a joke that he bowled over the wicket to a right-hander for the first time in a couple of years this tournament,” Griffith said. “That just shows you the confidence he’s got in his bowling at the moment. He’s getting up and over and bowling proper offspinners instead of coming round-arm around the wicket and slinging that ball in a fast and flat. He’s in a pretty good space.”
Maxwell wants to give Australia captain Aaron Finch another versatile spinning option alongside Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa, rather than just a specific match-up for left-handers only.
“I think the biggest thing for me first and foremost is to be able to bowl not just to left-handers but to be able to bowl to right-handers and not have to, I suppose, worry about two right-handers being out there,” Maxwell said. “Still be able to close down one side the ground and an offer Finchy an extra option. I suppose that’s the biggest thing I’ve been working really hard on, bowling from over the wicket and being able to attack right-handed batters and it feels like it’s going really well.”
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo