Another team selection announcement, another Glenn Maxwell omission, another perplexing reason given that prompts only more questions. If it wasn’t the career of a man in the prime of his cricketing life being discussed, this would be funny. Instead, it is laughable.
When Trevor Hohns fronted the cameras to announce the squad for two upcoming Tests against Sri Lanka, he acknowledged that a “revamp” was needed. They lost a series and needed to sack people. That’s the deal in professional sport the world over. “CA are listening and trying to do better,” he urged.
Trying to do better. It was an interesting choice of words off the top, suggestive of of a bit of contrition, yet there was none of that when it came to Maxwell’s treatment over the last year.
Instead, today’s spin for Maxwell was that the batsman himself was satisfied just playing in pyjamas for Australia for the time being. “We’ve had several conversations with Glenn about all this and right now he is just content to focus on one-day cricket and white ball cricket,” Hohns said. It was immediately contradicted by stating that Maxwell himself has “made it very clear" to selectors that he wants to play in the creams as well.
This is the same Maxwell who said last year that the desire to wear the baggy green again was “burning deep within” him. The guy who said his “main goal” was to ink himself on the team sheet for the Ashes in England in 2019. The one who passed up the chance of big IPL dollars to play a full season of English county cricket in an effort to make it so.
He can clarify it himself as soon as he is asked the question (and make no mistake, he will be). One thing Maxwell cannot be accused of is fudging – his honesty has always been elite. Sometimes too much so. Does it count against him? “Absolutely not,” Hohns insisted. “There is nothing to do with that at all. When we look at teams now we obviously take into account players’ characters but I can assure you that is not an issue.”
To recap, since Maxwell was the reserve batsman for Australia’s Ashes opening Test last summer, we are up to 14 times where he has been overlooked for a vacant top six position, 13 of those since the sandpaper fiasco. In that period, he’s averaged 53 in first-class cricket.(AP Images)
For Maxwell, what burns more than being overlooked is how he was starved of a chance to to play red-ball cricket in 2018. Instead of having a chance to build a case for a first home Test, he turned out for just eight First Class games in the last 14 months, with two so far this Sheffield Shield season due to Australian ODI and T20 commitments.
Maxwell knew the schedule, so ahead of last Australian winter, he tried to win himself a county cricket stint. This was denied by decision-makers at Cricket Australia who told him to rest for an Australia ‘A’ tour of India instead, which was nominated as a warm-up for two UAE Tests in October.
With Maxwell having served as twelfth man in Australia’s most recent Test, flown to Johannesburg after the Cape Town suspensions, he never had reason to doubt his inclusion for the UAE, so he complied with the county cricket roadblock.
But come July, the ‘A’ squad was announced and he wasn’t there. He wasn’t worried as selectors had told him that his credentials in Asia were well proven after his 2017 Test century in India. The media were given the same background briefing. “There has been a lot of positive reinforcement that I didn’t need to go on that tour,” he said at the time.
It turns out that he did. Marnus Labuschagne managed to leap-frog him with an innings of 60 against India ‘A’. Under pressure to explain himself, Justin Langer said it came down an “art of concentration” he didn’t believe Maxwell had shown. But this ignored his work in Ranchi, against the world-beating Indians, when he took 56 balls to register his first boundary before posting a ton with a strike rate of 50.
In that masterful hand – which Maxwell assumed was defining – he stuck it up everyone who said he lacked the patience for Test cricket. But here, 18 months on, this line of attack was back. He was wearing his baggy green in a promotional shoot when he found out that he wouldn’t be needing it on the field, and was left confused and shattered once more.
“I had a few offers to play county cricket that were originally knocked back with a chance to play the ‘A’ series,” he lamented carefully, with that same control from Ranchi. “Then to get told not to play the ‘A’ series and have a rest, I was understanding of that and their reasoning. I was hoping that was a positive note to go to Dubai. Obviously, that wasn’t the case.”
In the earlier spirit of striving to listen and do better, it could be hoped that Maxwell would be entitled to an apology for being so badly stuffed around. “I don’t think so,” was Hohns’ reply to the proposition. “I’m not sure what the instruction was or who it came from but players are free to make up their own decisions on what they go and play.”
To take Hohns at his word, that he had no idea about Maxwell being told to brush county cricket and all the rest, might be the worst element of this whole saga. How is it possible that the man responsible for picking the national team wasn’t briefed on such a significant direction with such consequences? It’s a staggering admission. And it’s miles short of good enough.