Glenn Maxwell has revealed his frustration at increasingly limited opportunities against the red ball as he comes off what he’s described as “the worst two months of my life”.
Speaking at the launch of his new book series at the MCG, Maxwell said the tragic loss of Phillip Hughes continues to be a day-to-day battle, detailing the difficult mourning process he and close friend Aaron Finch have endured.
The allrounder’s chaotic 2014 saw as many ups as it had downs.
Maxwell was a lone bright light for Australia during a disappointing World T20 // Getty Images
The 26-year-old was Australia’s standout performer in the ICC World T20 in Bangladesh before being crowned the Indian Premier League’s most valuable player.
He then starred in the 50-over format against Zimbabwe and Pakistan, culminating in a double-wicket maiden to seal a 3-0 series whitewash.
But that’s where the joy ended.
His return to the Test team didn’t go to plan, out for 37 and four when batting at No.3 in Abu Dhabi while also failing to take a wicket in the 2-0 series loss to Pakistan.
The right-hander got a second opportunity at Test level, but was dropped for the home series against India // Getty Images
He returned to Australia in a form slump, was dropped from the one-day team before being recalled, and now he can’t seem to buy a run.
Despite the lean run, Maxwell is likely to be included in Australia’s 15-man ICC Cricket World Cup squad named later this week.
However, his reputation as a limited-overs master blaster has become an obstacle to his real cricket passion; playing the first-class game with the red ball.
“The thing that’s been frustrating me the most is not being able to play the longer form for a couple of games in a row. That’s the most frustrating part,” Maxwell told cricket.com.au.
“I feel 2014 was a great year for me with the red ball. I had a super year with the bat, was rewarded with a Test in Dubai and it was just frustrating to have those red ball games too few and far between.
“It looks like I’m not going to play another red ball game until October.
“It’s (first-class cricket) proven to be my best format and I think it gets lost in all this one-day/limited-overs stuff because we play so much T20 cricket, so many one-dayers, a lot of T20 tournaments, it gets lost.”
In Victoria’s dismal 2013-14 Bupa Sheffield Shield campaign, Maxwell was the only player to score multiple hundreds, finishing with 544 runs at 45.33 in a season that featured only one outright win and the unwanted wooden spoon for the Bushrangers.
His rapid 102-ball 127 against NSW at the SCG last February was even more impressive considering the right-hander walked out to bat with the hosts running rampant and the scoreboard reading 6-9.
A week later, Maxwell made it back-to-back tons with 119 against the West End Redbacks at the Adelaide Oval, silencing the critics who doubted his ability and temperament in four-day cricket.
“I felt like I was in the form of my life,” he said on his stunning finish to last summer.
“After that I didn’t play another red-ball game for three months until I got to England, where I got 85 straight away, felt good again and against (Pakistan’s ace spinner Saeed) Ajmal.
“I just feel I haven’t played enough red ball consistently which is the most frustrating thing for me.
“For people to pass judgement on my red-ball game and not actually come and watch me play Sheffield Shield cricket, that’s probably another frustrating thing I’ve struggled to deal with.”
And it’s the freedom of first-class cricket where Maxwell feels not only the most comfortable, but also most capable as a batsman.
Maxwell and close mate Aaron Finch celebrate a wicket in the Bupa Sheffield Shield // Getty Images
Devoid of batting powerplays and fielding restrictions, the traditional format provides the Melbournian a chance to breathe and step away from the ‘x-factor’ shadow that’s followed him in limited-overs cricket since he burst on to the domestic scene with a record-breaking 19-ball fifty in his second season for the Bushrangers.
But his ultra-aggressive stroke play has transformed into a double-edged sword.
Now, when Maxwell walks to the crease he carries with him the expectation of audacious reverse-sweeps, a sky-high strike rate and the promise of a game-changing innings that, in recent times, he has failed to live up to - though he showed signs of finally emerging from his slump with a quick-fire 23 against Sydney Sixers at the MCG on Monday night, which included his trademark switch hit.
So when the opportunity to mark centre, assess the field and build an innings without the pressure of an asking rate presents itself, it’s no surprise that Maxwell jumps at the chance.
“I find red ball the easiest because I’ve got so much time,” he explained.
“There’s no pressure.
“I don’t feel any expectation playing in the red-ball game.
“I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone. You can just go out there and do it.
“Where one-day cricket you’ve got run rates, you’ve got all sorts of things that play on your mind as well as your own form and everything else that’s going on.”
In the past year, Maxwell has visited South Africa, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, India, England, back to India, then again to the UAE before finally returning home to Australia where he immediately saddled up in Australia’s T20 and one-day outfits.
And there’s no sign of slowing down.
Maxwell completes an outfield catch for the Stars during this summer's BBL // Getty Images
Maxwell is in the middle of the KFC T20 Big Bash League with the Melbourne Stars, before the Carlton Mid ODI tri-series and World Cup hits Australia’s shores.
But as the game’s 50-over showpiece looms, Maxwell has had to deal with much more than just jet lag and obscure field placings.
“This one-days stuff is good but I haven’t played a lot of that either,” he continued.
“It’s been a weird season.
“To go in and out of random formats, and in and out of teams, it’s been pretty tough after what’s happened with Hughesy.
“You combine that with everything else that was going on, it was probably the worst two months of my life right there and that (Hughes’s passing) was the icing on the cake.”
At the time of the Hughes tragedy, Maxwell was living with Victorian and Australian teammate Finch, but has since moved, albeit only a couple of streets over.
Hughes’s death hit harder than most for Finch. Australia’s T20 captain was one of his closest friends, and a pallbearer at the 25-year-old’s funeral in Macksville last month.
“Living with Finchy probably didn’t help either,” Maxwell said. “He was obviously best mates with him (and) we went through different stages of grieving at different times.
Finch and Maxwell at the crease for the Bushrangers // Getty Images
“The first week he didn’t want to talk about it and I sort of did. That didn’t really sit well with either of us.
“Then the second week I didn’t want to talk about it and he did. We were on different paths the whole time.
“I really struggled to deal with that.”
Maxwell has found it difficult to escape the recurring memories of his fallen friend, but there is one place where the allrounder feels at peace.
“I had a dream about him the other night and woke up really emotional,” he said.
“I keep having random moments of weakness where I just lose it because I start thinking about him.
“Out in the middle is the only time I’ve felt good.
“When I’m batting, that’s when everything else is blocked out and I’m fine.
“Fielding I still struggle with and your head starts to wander a little bit, which I’ve tried to create contests a bit more to keep my mind busy.
“It is hard to stop thinking.”