A crucial call from Australia’s physiotherapist Nick Jones allowed Glenn Maxwell to complete one of the greatest ODI innings ever seen
'I'm done here': Unsung hero behind Maxwell masterpiece
He did not face a ball, nor score a run, but Australia's physiotherapist could lay claim to being the third most important person in the batting effort that sealed one of the greatest comeback wins in cricket history.
Nick Jones, the experienced physio who has looked after the bodies of the Aussie men’s side for the last two years, emerged as the unlikeliest hero out of the Glenn Maxwell-led World Cup epic in Mumbai.
Australia's medical staff, including team doctor Leigh Golding and strength and conditioning coach Ross Herridge, had recognised the warning signs even before Maxwell went to the crease.
The allrounder, who bowled 10 overs in 34-degree heat and over 80-percent humidity, needed to come off the ground during the Afghanistan innings in the stifling afternoon conditions to cool himself down.
The tipping point then came in the evening when he approached a century, running three consecutive twos and then a single in the 30th over. It sent his back into violent spasms, preceding cramps in his calves, hamstrings, feet, and even his toes.
There was only so much that pickle juice could do to help.
"From there it was obvious we were fighting a losing battle," Jones told cricket.com.au in the wake of Maxwell’s remarkable double-century that sealed Australia’s semi-final spot. "That's not unusual – we see this a lot with lots of different players – but the more running you do, you're bringing (cramps) on more regularly and more quickly.
"I was going out pretty regularly and I was just trying to keep him calm, trying to down-regulate everything, manage his heart rate and be as assuring as possible.
"(Jones said to Maxwell) 'We've seen this before, we know what this looks like – I think you're going to be able to do this. If we can keep you as upright as possible, you're going to be able to keep going from now'."
Having already treated Maxwell on three separate occasions for severe cramping, Jones' shining moment came when he was summoned to the middle of the Wankhede Stadium yet again when the star batter collapsed in a heap midway through the 41st over of their chase.
Maxwell and captain Pat Cummins, who had come together with the Aussies 7-91 chasing 292, had defied all odds to get their side to within 55 runs of their target.
Jones had already helped the pair settle on a strategy of minimising their running between the wickets to ensure Maxwell retained any shred of fuel left his tank.
"Then he went down like he was a shot, lying down like a dead man on the floor," said the Perth-based Jones, who worked with Western Australia's cricket team for a decade before joining the national set-up.
"I got out there and it was his right calf, his left hammy and a few other areas that were all cramping at the same time.
"While we were giving him a bit of a stretch out, it was in that moment he said, 'I'm done here. I can't keep going. I need to come off and retire.'
"Patty was like, 'go off, get some treatment and you can always come back later'.
"That is reasonable in some situations. But in that one, from my end, if you take someone off in that situation when their system is already depleted, and you sit them down and cool them down – you're not getting them back up.
"Their body shuts down. They often go into full body cramps and you're often not able to get any level of function out of them."
It was here that Jones' sage advice might have turned the match.
"He was struggling big time but I said to Glenn initially, 'look, I think your best bet is to get you up off the ground," Jones recalled saying to Maxwell as he lay prone on the turf.
"’You're lying down, other things are going to cramp, we need you up on your feet, we need to stretch the key muscle groups that are going’.
"’But if you stay on your feet and minimise your running, I think you can stay out here. I think that's your best bet’. I explained that to Patty … we need to keep him out there and keep him going."
Adam Zampa, who Cummins had beckoned to replace Maxwell at the crease, had come all the way down the changeroom steps and was ready to walk onto the ground.
Maxwell remained in the middle, relying on his extraordinary hand-eye coordination and wrist and arm strength to muscle a succession of boundaries, each more unfathomable than the last.
"The way it played out from there was absolutely amazing and well beyond anything I expected he could do," said Jones. "I think we made the right call in terms of keeping him out there."
Australia's 2023 ODI World Cup fixtures
October 8: Lost to India by six wickets
October 12: Lost to South Africa by 134 runs
October 16: Beat Sri Lanka by five wickets
October 20: Beat Pakistan by 62 runs
October 25: Beat Netherlands by 309 runs
October 28: Beat New Zealand by five runs
November 4: Beat England by 33 runs
November 7: Beat Afghanistan by three wickets
November 11: v Bangladesh, Pune, 4pm AEDT
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Sean Abbott, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa