Gillette T20 INTL Series v Sri Lanka
Behind the mask of the 'great entertainer'
Glenn Maxwell raised concerns around his mental health with Justin Langer prior to Australia's first T20I against Sri Lanka in Adelaide
1 November 2019, 08:00 AM AEST
Last Saturday, 24 hours before Glenn Maxwell produced an exhilarating innings in the opening international match of the summer, Justin Langer could sense something wasn’t quite right.
As proved by Maxwell’s eye-catching innings the following day, a knock that was punctuated by audacious reverse ramp shots and powerful heaves into the Adelaide Oval members, Langer’s sixth sense had nothing to do with cricket.
But he knew something was amiss.
“He just didn’t seem to have his normal zip and enthusiasm,” Langer revealed on Thursday after it was announced Maxwell would take a break from cricket for mental health reasons.
“A few little things weren’t quite adding up and I just asked him how he was going.
“And he said, ‘I’m not going that well actually’.”
Maxwell’s performance in the middle the next day gave no indication as to the conversation he’d had with his coach.
In concert with David Warner, the Victorian bludgeoned Sri Lanka’s attack, coupling delicate glances behind the stumps with a new open batting stance at the crease that allowed him to muscle anything slightly short of a length into the stands.
He also provided the highlight of a day in which there were many; mic’d up in the field and speaking with Fox Cricket’s commentary team between deliveries, he sprinted to his left, picked up and fired in a bullet throw in front of the member’s pavilion to secure a run out of Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga, all but commentating his own brilliance as he did so.
“He had that incredible innings and he fielded like a genius, like he can,” Langer said.
“But I don’t think he got much joy out of it. So that’s not much fun.
“You don’t just do it to win games of cricket, you want to have fun while you’re doing it.
“And he probably wasn’t having as much fun as he would have liked, even though he’s got that smile on his face when he plays.”
A high-level coach for the past decade, Langer is no stranger to seeing young players struggling with the pressures of domestic and international cricket.
And he says Maxwell’s ability to still produce on the field is a reminder that an athlete’s public persona can sometime hide a different reality.
“People in public positions have to put on a mask all the time,” Langer said.
“That’s the mask he puts on, that’s his armour.
“His energy, the way he plays, he’s the great entertainer. But underneath the mask, when you build relationship with people, you sense when they’re not quite right.”
In Sydney, teammate Chris Lynn applauded Maxwell for coming forward and urged all Australians to get behind him.
“It obviously sends shivers down your spine when you hear something like this,” he said.
“As men, we don’t speak up enough about it so I’m really proud that he’s actually come out, assessed the situation and realised that cricket’s not for him right now.
“I wish him all the best. And I’ll be there for him, just like the other 25 million Australians.”
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