Glenn Maxwell has scored three half-centuries in three innings in IPL 2014 © IANS
Kings XI Punjab’s Australian import Glenn Maxwell has looked nearly invincible in the first three matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014. Not only is Maxwell leading the run charts, he is scoring runs at a breakneck pace as well. All the IPL sides seem to be struggling to stop this human juggernaut. However, Devarchit Varma says there is possibly a way to keep Maxwell quiet.
Just three matches, a whopping total of 279 runs at a mind-boggling average of 93, including three half-centuries. These are not the numbers of a batsman who is in terrific form in either Test cricket or One-Day Internationals (ODIs). These are the numbers garnered by the Australian batsman Glenn Maxwell for the King XI Punjab (KXIP), who have been in an extraordinary form — something that has never been seen in this tournament in the past. Maxwell has played three innings that have not only won them as many matches, but have propelled them to be considered among the favourites in the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Those who have closely followed Maxwell’s form in the recent past would not be surprised with what the right-handed Australian is doing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Among those who were mocked in the last IPL, Maxwell has bounced back in such a manner that the world is now not only ranking him among the best in the format, but the comparisons with the scintillating Chris Gayle is more than enough to prove how devastating Maxwell has been.
But what is the secret behind the success of Maxwell? Playing lot of cricket in the subcontinent? Could be. Playing a lot of Twenty20 cricket? May be. But rather than thinking about how he has garnered so much success, the IPL sides would be planning on how to stop the Australian batsman. If there’s a problem, certainly there is a solution. To this problem, there is certainly a solution that can work in favour of the KXIP’s opponents. But for that, they will have to be lot smarter and disciplined.
Rewind back to the ICC World T20 2014 final between a dominant Indian side and the talented Sri Lankans. India hadn’t lost a game till the final and Sri Lanka had an excellent run. But what worked in Sri Lanka’s favour? It was their disciplined effort with the ball, even though they spilled catches — the most important one being, giving a lifeline to Virat Kohli in a match as important as the final.
What the Sri Lankans did in the final to contain a star-studded and an in-form Indian batting line-up was by bowling in a line and length that is tough for the batsmen to connect. The Indian batsmen found it extremely tough to hit the ones well outside the off-stump, flirting around with the wide mark. Remember how brilliant Lasith Malinga was in the final over, not allowing the MS Dhoni any scope to connect, despite Indian captain playing with his traditional thick bat and swinging as hard as he could?
This is one trick that must be employed by the IPL sides when they take on the Kings XI Punjab. If one observes the scoring areas of Maxwell in the first three matches of IPL 2014, you would find that he hasn’t scored much on the off-side. The bulk of the scoring has been done on the leg-side. It is more likely for a leg-spinner to be hit on the leg if he is bowling on the middle and leg stumps. But if the line is changed, say a bowler consistently irritates someone like Maxwell — who has a stunning strike-rate — by bowling outside the off, there are chances of the batsman mistiming the shot. Yes, he can hit on the off-side as well, and Maxwell has a near-perfect reverse-sweep in his arsenal. But how many times can he deploy the same shot, or say, how many times will he be able to connect as handsomely as he has been so far in this tournament?
If a leg-spinner comes over the wicket and bowls well outside the off, how many times will Maxwell hit it outside the park?
Maxwell’s wagon-wheel indicates he has got the majority of his runs on the leg side, and the IPL teams will have to look into this aspect of his batting skills. How good Maxwell handles this challenge is something that can only be seen during a match. And certainly, this is one strategy the teams can opt as so far he has been unstoppable.
Let’s not go far away to understand this plan any further. The reason why Ian Bell was so successful in the Ashes 2013 in England and why he failed miserably in Australia was simple to understand — the Australians totally denied him any opportunity to play his favourite cut-shot. Bell had scored heavily with that stroke in England, and in the return Ashes, the Australians were so disciplined that for five Test matches they did not give room to the right-handed batsman to execute that stroke.
There is certainly a way to stop Maxwell. All that the teams need to do is put their thinking caps on and be disciplined. Bowling outside the off and not allowing Maxwell to score in the areas that he prefers is one of the best solutions visible so far.
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(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)