Maxwell eyes India Tests after SL heartache
White-ball superstar rode a wave of emotions when called up to the red-ball squad in Sri Lanka, conceding he was 'shattered' to ultimately be overlooked for a recall
5 August 2022, 02:35 PM AEST
After earning a surprise call-up that buoyed hopes of reviving his dormant Test career in Sri Lanka last month, Glenn Maxwell admits he was "shattered" when circumstances saw him overlooked for a place in Australia's starting XI.
Maxwell, who played the most recent of his seven Tests to date against Bangladesh five years ago, seemed set to once again don his treasured Baggy Green Cap when added to Australia's squad with doubts surrounding the fitness of incumbent batter Travis Head.
Even after Head recovered from his hamstring injury and claimed a remarkable 4-10 in Australia's thumping first Test win at Galle, Maxwell remained in the picture for a recall with conditions for the second Test expected to favour spin over speed and Mitchell Starc likely to be rested.
However, come the morning of that match (also at Galle), Australia's brains trust were confronted by a markedly different playing surface that was much firmer and potentially faster than expected, and they duly deployed an unchanged line-up.
As events transpired, Sri Lanka's debutant spinners Prabath Jayasuriya (12-177) and Maheesh Theekshana (3-76) tore through Australia's batting to level the two-match series with victory by an innings and 39 runs.
While Maxwell believes selectors made the right call in light of the pitch conditions, and he takes solace in knowing his aspirations for further Test representation remain strong given Australia's next tour will be on spin-friendly tracks in India, he concedes he was crestfallen at the time.
"I was shattered when I got told," Maxwell revealed to reporters in the UK where his current stint with London Spirit in The Hundred began with him scoring 18 off 16 deliveries overnight.
"I had no thoughts in my mind that I was going to be playing Test cricket, or even be involved, and I was sort of at peace.
"Then, as soon as I got told I was going to be involved, new emotions sort of came back from when I was last in a Test squad and the excitement of being back around the group … and I thought, 'I feel like I'm ready'.
"And then, unfortunately, they changed the conditions.
"If it was the same pitch for both Tests, I probably would have played, but they obviously made a slightly better wicket and the selectors made the right call.
"I was just genuinely disappointed. I just really wanted to play, but I loved being a part of it. I loved the thought of playing it (Test cricket) again.
"I've tried not to get too excited or get my hopes up too much because I know, having been in that situation so many times and being on the wrong side of it, the ups and downs of selection and the 50-50 calls.
"But I just allowed myself to get just a little bit too excited."
On the morning of the second Test at Galle, Maxwell's disappointment at missing out was palpable but he threw himself into the team's pre-game warm-up session and his sense of letdown was soon replaced by the buzz of realisation he was genuinely back in the selectors' thinking.
That optimism is further buoyed by the reality Australia's next away Test assignment is the four-match tour to India in February-March next year where the then 34-year-old's skills set of innovative batting, combative off-spin bowling and extraordinary fielding will likely see him in the selection mix.
The allrounder has garnered a reputation as something of a sub continent specialist in the red-ball format, with all of his Test appearances to date coming in India (four), Bangladesh (two) and the UAE where he played one Test against Pakistan in 2014.
The fact Maxwell has not played a first-class game since his most recent Marsh Sheffield Shield match for Victoria at the start of the 2019-20 summer has more to do with competing white-ball obligations for Australia.
And while the time he spent preparing for a possible Test recall in Galle not only whetted his appetite to become further involved in the longest format, he does not believe selection for the upcoming India campaign is dependent on him playing Shield cricket in the interim.
"I love the training aspect of it," he said of the Test disciplines. "I love working with the coaches and coming up with new types of tactics to deal with difficult spin bowling and balls exploding, and it was just so much fun – I felt so ready to go every game.
"I think that's one thing I did really well in my last four Tests, when I got back into the side (in 2017).
"I was quick on my feet, I was able to use front and back really well and I made it tough for the bowlers to bowl repeated dot balls at me.
"And I was able to use my hands quite similar to the way the subcontinent players use them, where you're able to deflect the ball away from the guys around the bat.
"It feels like I'm in a good place.
"The selectors have talked about that (recent) subcontinent tour and the next one, and they just asked, 'What do you need to get ready, and would Shield cricket make a difference?'
"I said, 'No, it won't', because the conditions are just so different over there (in Asia) and it's certainly hard to prepare for spinning tracks in Australia during our first-class games."
Where Maxwell does see a profound change is the manner in which he's viewed among the present Australia Test set-up compared to when he earned his Baggy Green Cap during the 2013 tour to India.
In particular, he notes how the five-day game has evolved to the point where current Australia players Usman Khawaja and Alex Carey now regularly employ the reverse sweep – a stroke for which Maxwell was regularly pilloried for attempting – and few critics bat an eyelid.
Indeed, the ploy is now seen as a vital tool in batters' ability to combat spin bowlers on turning pitches when the presence of close catchers renders traditional defensive strategies fraught with danger.
"For so long, whenever I played a reverse sweep it was frowned upon, and now it's become a staple of Test cricket wherever you play in the world – everyone plays it, so it's like, where was this six years ago?" Maxwell noted with a wry laugh.
"It would have been nice when I was playing (Tests) if people would have looked at me and gone, 'Oh, visionary'.
"Uzzie (Khawaja) plays 300 of them and he's a superstar, gets 150 and it's like 'bow down to him'.
"My method hasn't really changed a whole lot over the years.
"I probably have gained a little bit more confidence around certain shots and become, I suppose, a little bit more stable off the field as well.
"It's certainly nice to have support, where I feel like I probably didn't have that in the early days of my Test career.
"It was probably the other way around, where it was just like, 'No, can't have this guy on the team'.
"When I came back into the (Test) side in 2017, it felt like there was a real shift of positivity coming my way … so it's nice to have that positivity and that shift of your perceptions, for a change.
"It was always like I was one or two failures away from being under pressure, and I feel like that sort of slipped away in the shorter formats.
"Now it feels there's a bit more trust in what I bring to the team and with that brings consistency and better performances, so it's been nice to have that weight lifted off your shoulders a little bit."