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Comment: Australia’s World T20 hopes rest with Maxwell

The Roar logo The Roar 30-01-2016 Ronan O'Connell
Glenn Maxwell kisses the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy. © AAP Image/Julian Smith Glenn Maxwell kisses the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy.

Glenn Maxwell will decide the fate of Australia at the upcoming World T20 in India. On dry Indian decks, the Aussies will rely heavily both on his off spin and his rare ability to destroy slow bowlers with the blade.

As we saw in the two T20 losses against India this week, Australia still have a significant weakness against spin.

In the last World T20 in Bangladesh in 2014, their opponents stacked their line-ups with tweakers to exploit the inability of the Australian batsmen to score freely against slow bowlers.

At times in that tournament, teams opened the bowling with two spinners against Australia and similar tactics can be expected again in India.

In Bangladesh, Australia won just one of their four games, that against the host, resulting in an early exit from the tournament. George Bailey, Shane Watson, Brad Hodge, Cameron White and David Warner all laboured against spin, leaving Australia’s batting impotent.

Maxwell was Australia’s standout player in that World Cup, making 147 runs from just 70 balls faced.

He was the only Australian who consistently got after the slow bowlers, either by using his feet or unfurling his devastating slog sweep.

Maxwell carried that form into the following Indian Premier League season, making 552 runs at 35, at the sensational strike rate of 188.

Steve Smith may be Australia’s most renowned player of spin, but no Australian strikes terror into the hearts of opposition tweakers like Maxwell. When he is in full flow, he is capable of vaporising even the world’s elite spinners.

His middle-order ballistics can drastically change the course of a T20 game in the space of 10 minutes.

While Maxwell won’t be able to do it all on his own, as evidenced in the 2014 World Cup, if Australia are to make an unlikely push for the Cup he will need to be on fire.

Openers David Warner and Aaron Finch both are highly accomplished players, but are susceptible to getting tied down by canny spinners.

Australia will hope that they can target opposition tweakers via Maxwell, Smith and Usman Khawaja, who has become a fine player of slow bowlers.

Fresh from winning Australia’s ODI player of the year this week, Maxwell has blossomed as an international cricketer.

His brilliant campaign in the 2015 World Cup, in which he was named in the team of the tournament, confirmed that he is a big occasion performer.

His considerable experience in the IPL should stand him in good stead in the coming tournament. Maxwell will, however, have to rebound from an awful 2015 IPL season during which averaged 13 with the bat and took just two wickets.

In the World T20, Australia will need him not to just rush through an over or two each match but to be a regular wicket taker in spin-friendly conditions. Maxwell’s bowling record in T20s is poor, with 50 wickets at 32.

He is a better spinner than those figures suggest, however, and has become a key bowler for Australia in ODIs, sometimes playing as their sole tweaker.

In his past 32 ODIs, Maxwell has snared 30 wickets at 30 – solid figures for any spinner, let alone a batting all-rounder.

With Australia’s attack weakened massively by the injuries to Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile – probably their three best T20 bowlers – their spinners will carry a heavy burden in India.

Without a star turn from Maxwell, Australia are no hope of lifting the World T20 trophy for the first time.

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