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Comment: Glenn Maxwell could be the greatest ODI player of all

The Roar logo The Roar 14-03-2015 Ronan O'Connell
Glenn Maxwell has been a star performer so far in one-day cricket. © AAP Image/Richard Wainwright Glenn Maxwell has been a star performer so far in one-day cricket.

Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson are the supreme all-rounders in Australia’s ODI history. Yet the much-maligned Glenn Maxwell is further advanced, statistically, than either of them was at the same stages of their careers.

The Victorian has scored more runs in his first 45 matches than that pair did combined in the early period of their ODI playing days.

Maxwell’s 11 fifties and 1 hundred also dwarf Watson and Symonds’ collective return of only 5 fifties.

Granted, these comparisons are a bit misleading as he has been afforded more chances to bat than that duo received in the infancy of their careers. But it should give a few of Maxwell’s most vociferous critics pause for thought.

As a batsman, he is well on track to match the feats of those all-times greats.

Statistics after 45 ODIs:

Maxwell: 1300 runs at 34 (11 fifties and 1 hundred, not out in 12 per cent of innings) and 30 wickets at 39.

Symonds: 693 runs at 27 (2 fifties, no hundreds, not out in 20 per cent of innings) and 40 wickets at 30.

Watson: 588 runs at 33 (3 fifties, no hundreds, not out in 40 per cent of innings) and 41 wickets at 35.

Maxwell has earned this superior batting record despite roundly being recognised as having significant untapped potential with the blade.

Early in his career, Symonds had a maddening habit of gifting his wicket due to overly-adventurous strokeplay. As he learnt to harness his outrageous gifts he became a brilliantly consistent contributor. We have seen the same evolution with David Warner at Test level, although not yet in the 50-over format unfortunately.

If the penny drops for Maxwell, it is difficult to fathom how effective he will be. His career ODI strike rate of 125 is the best in history for a player who has scored 1000 runs or more. On the occasions when he has batted with restraint at international or domestic level, Maxwell has still scored at a startling rate. He just proved far more difficult to dismiss.

A mature Maxwell could take world cricket in his palm and crush it like the spirit of so many trundling bowlers. Not just in coloured clothing either – his talents at first-class level are equally astounding, although even less refined at this stage.

His ODI batting average of 34 may not be stellar but surely will increase as he reduces the instances of needless dismissals and finishes with red ink more often. Strangely for a batsman who often comes in during the last third of his side’s innings, he has remained not out in just 12 per cent of his ODI knocks, compared to 40 per cent for Watson, for example, in his first 45 ODIs.

His average could rise quite sharply to above 40, without a significant drop in strike rate, if he displays a shade more caution.

Maxwell already has an impressive record of passing 50 in ODIs, having done so one in every 3.75 innings. That is comfortably better than the career ratios of Steve Smith (1 in 6.75 innings), Shane Watson (1 in 4.46) and Warner (1 in 4.14), is identical to Aaron Finch’s and only a smidgeon behind Michael Clarke’s (1 in 3.71).

If not for the meltdowns which have marred his career, Maxwell may well be roundly considered as one of the best ODI players in the world. His beguiling batsmanship spawns the headlines but his clinical fielding and ever-improving off spin greatly enhance the Australian line-up.

If statistics were calculated on the amount of runs saved per match by fieldsman, Maxwell would be in the elite bracket. He has sure hands, wonderful balance and agility, enviable leg speed and a fantastic arm.

As I noted in my previous piece for The Roar, his bowling has also blossomed to the point that he is arguably as effective as specialist tweaker Xavier Doherty. Australia’s strategy of fielding four frontline quicks through much of this summer has benefited Maxwell, who seems to have relished the chance to be his team’s sole spinner.

His past 18 matches have seen him snare 18 wickets at the miserly average of 26. Similar to the way in which he has too often failed to respect opposition bowling attacks, Maxwell began his ODI career trying to take a wicket with every delivery.

Perhaps because he now has a clearer role in Australia’s bowling strategy, he has eradicated this fault. Maxwell still flights the ball generously and gives it a genuine rip, which are his greatest assets as a bowler. He’s just tightened his approach and is all the better for it.

Australia have shown faith in Maxwell, resisting the urge to dump him when many people, including myself, suggested they should consider it. They see what he can become. When, finally, he shares their vision, Maxwell may turn into the best limited-overs player on the planet.

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