Former quick Johnson vouches for Maxwell as Australia’s World Cup captain
Mitchell Johnson wants Glenn Maxwell to captain Australia at the World Cup. (AFP Image)

Mitchell Johnson, the retired Australia fast bowler, has picked Glenn Maxwell as his captain for Australia’s World Cup defence later this year. With limited-overs captain Aaron Finch struggling for runs and Maxwell doing justice to his role of a finisher at No. 7, Johnson feels the enigmatic cricketer is most suited to captain Australia in the quadrennial event starting May 30 in England.

“My decision to pick Glenn Maxwell as captain might raise eyebrows,” Johnson wrote for Perth Now. “But having played with him both for Australia and in the Indian Premier League, I can say that this polarising cricketer is misunderstood. He might not be your typical first-choice captain, though clearly Melbourne Stars have seen something in Maxwell. Leadership has helped him mature, helped to settle him and bring the best out of him.

“I think we need our sportsmen to have a certain presence and have the confidence to give their opinion in a team environment and he definitely does that. More importantly, Maxwell is a cricket tragic who loves the game and thinks deeply about it.

Australia’s coach Justin Langer has underlined the value of having Maxwell bat at No 7 in ODIs, stating that the Victorian allrounder is in a “perfect batting spot” despite calls for him to be pushed up.

During the opening ODI against India, Maxwell walked out to bat at No 7 in the 48th over and faced only five deliveries, from which he scored 11 runs. Over the past 12 months, Maxwell has batted at No 6 six times but in the last three ODIs has been pushed down a spot, with Marcus Stoinis and Alex Carey sent in at No 6.

Maxwell captains Big Bash League franchise Melbourne Stars and was a teammate of Johnson’s during their victorious 2015 World Cup campaign. Besides, the two have also played the IPL for the same team – Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab.

“I spent a lot of time with Maxwell in the IPL at both Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab and he was always very vocal in team meetings … particularly with planning such as fielding positions for certain players. He knows opposition players very well and he doesn’t forget much.

“He reads the game well and that’s essential for a captain. Maxi is not a leader who will just let things roll on, either. He thinks outside the square. He is 30 now and knows the game inside out.”

Following a forgettable 2018, Australia are truing to strike a perfect team-balance calling up many new additions in the ODI set-up, including wicketkeeper batsman Carey who opened the innings in the three ODIs against India. Johnson called for Carey’s immediate exclusion from the squad, along with another name, that may surprise a few.

“Hazlewood hasn’t played a lot of one-day cricket in recent times and I decided the five quicks I selected provided the best balance,” he continued. “I’ve made another big call with the wicketkeeping position and opted to overlook incumbent gloveman and vice-captain Alex Carey. Carey is an excellent ‘keeper, however, I remain unconvinced about his batting.”

After the two Tests against Sri Lanka, Australia travel to India for a limited-overs tour followed by a series against Pakistan to the UAE. For Australia have a more settled unit until Steve Smith and David Warner return, Maxwell suggested the inclusion of Darcy Short at the top of the order and vouched for Peter Handscomb to keep wickets, an option the batsmen himself has been open to.

“D’Arcy Short is also a more appealing option for me at the top of the order,” Johnson added. “Handscomb offers a great package as the specialist ‘keeper. He is batting well in the shorter formats and I don’t see giving him the gloves as a compromise. His Victorian teammates rate his keeping and he wouldn’t have to juggle the job with batting high in the order and could instead add depth at No.7.”