Glenn Maxwell picked a typically opportune time to rattle the Melbourne Stars to a Big Bash League victory at the MCG, leaving his erstwhile Melbourne Renegades rival and now the Australia ODI captain Aaron Finch to explain why the allrounder wasn’t joining him on the plane to India.
After a World Cup campaign that fell short of expectations, and a battle with mental-health issues that forced an extended break from the game in the first half of the season, Maxwell is a T20 concern only for the time being, meaning he is with the Stars for the duration of the BBL and will next play for Australia in their next bracket of T20Is ahead of the World Cup on home soil later this year.
However, the fact that the next 50-overs World Cup is to be held in India in 2023, a part of the world that Maxwell knows intimately through his many IPL and international campaigns, means that Finch, the national coach Justin Langer and his senior assistant Andrew McDonald will be looking again in the 31-year-old’s direction before the time comes to name the Cup squad.
“People look at [that innings] and they see the results and see all the sixes and all the big hitting, but the way he approached it last night was very clinical,” Finch said of Maxwell. “The way that he gave himself a bit of a chance early and then dominated late. Once he’s in, you can’t bowl to him anywhere. He’s got an answer to everything.
“It’s never closed, but when you’re picking a side there has to be a spot there. It just comes down to being in the right place at the right time and having the right match-up. You can only pick so many top-three batters. Guys that have been a part of the squad, Shaun Marsh for example, was disappointed as well after playing some great cricket for the last couple of years, but anyone who misses out is disappointed.”
For the time being, the selectors have chosen to take a closer look instead at this summer’s breakout Test batsman Marnus Labuschagne, who with his energy, part-time spin bowling and strong footwork against spin looks a useful addition to the white-ball squad, if not quite so explosive as Maxwell can be. Finch said Labuschagne’s burgeoning friendship with Steven Smith should ensure that by the time the team sets up for the first ODI against India he will be well and truly across the team’s plans.
“We know that he’s not going to be overawed by the occasion,” Finch said. “He’s come back into Test cricket after missing out at the start of the Ashes and he’s been unbelievable, so hopefully he can continue that. The form that he showed in the one-day games was outstanding domestically.
“He’s averaging up around 40 there batting at three, batting at four for Queensland on what’s been traditionally a little bit tougher batting conditions over the last couple of years in domestic cricket. Playing on some slower wickets that spin quite a bit, to be able to come in and do that role really well for Queensland is obviously what’s got him a place in the side, as well as his current form. I don’t see why it wouldn’t translate.”
Australia’s tour of India for three ODIs in the middle of January will see the BBL take centre-stage, while the players and broadcasters alike get used to being elsewhere during what is usually peak cricket time in the school holidays. Fox Sports has already made its displeasure known at the scheduling of a BBL match directly opposite one of Australia’s matches in India, and for Finch the scenario is not one he has previously contemplated.
“It’s something we didn’t expect to come up even a few months ago,” he said. “But obviously there was a few games’ shortfall with India in the last couple of years, so it doesn’t make a difference to us to be honest, if you’re playing one-day cricket anywhere it’s exciting. Would’ve been nice to play a few more internationals at home during this period but it’s just not possible.”
Instead, Smith, David Warner, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood will be turning out in India, and Finch said that for the bowlers there will be the opportunity to reconnect with white-ball cricket after five Tests, while the batsmen need to make the most of their starts in conditions that ease markedly once the first 20 or so balls have been negotiated.
“It’s a place where once you get in – it can be a really tough place to start your innings, the ball can swing early, can spin early. So once you get in it can be a beautiful place to bat, the outfields are obviously rapid, so you make the most of that. Any top-order player, once you get to 20 or 30, you really want to go on and cash in. That’ll be the task for our top four.
“[The pace bowlers] were all keen to get on this tour and play as much as they could and keep developing their skills. Especially someone like Josh, who’s been out of the side for quite a while now through injury and workload management at different times. I think the fact they’re all so keen to get over there and do well is really exciting.”