Radio Cricket Episode 77: We talk about life as an international cricketer with Australian batsman Glenn Maxwell.
In the past couple of years, Glenn Maxwell’s life has transformed. I talked with him about how such a young man has coped with sudden wealth, and how he’s changed after playing with Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, and getting paid a million dollars for playing just a handful of games in last year’s IPL. We also talk about how he can read Ravi Ashwin like a book, and how he reacted when he got sledged by Virat Kohli…
After this conversation, you won’t think about Glenn Maxwell in the same way again!
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Nishant Joshi (NJ): So, Glenn, you’re in South Africa right now for the T20 series, but you have been three for a few weeks. So, tell us about the secret spin camp there that you’re having with Shane Warne.
Glenn Maxwell (GM): Yeah, Warney came over and helped out. There were four of us: myself, James Muirhead, Brad Hogg and Cameron White. We had endless hours of bowling, rotated and batted again, and faced each other. It wasn’t too much toil, it was about getting acclimatized over here and get as much bowling time before the World Cup [World T20 in Bangladesh] because spin is going to play an integral part for whoever holds that trophy in the end.
NJ: What do you see yourself as? Do you see yourself as a batting all-rounder in the Test side?
GM : Yes, obviously to get into the Test side the way I bat, you have to have the extra skill with the bowling. Although I do a lot of work on that, that is going to take a long time. Hours of bowling – not only off the field, but on the field as well. I have to get the hours in Sheffield Shield that I need – to prove that I am up to the standards of a first-class wicket taker and not just a hold-up.
NJ: What exactly did Shane Warne teach you? Did you go through any new deliveries or variations?
GM: No, the variations part wasn’t really what it was about. It was more about my aggression through the crease and making sure I can be everything I can be, with the action that I have got, and putting maximum work on the ball for my stock ball. It was really good. I did find weaknesses in my original action, and the change was immediate. It was excellent to work with him. It is my third time with him, and each time he’s been good at identifying just one little thing which feels like it helps you a lot. I think all the boys got a lot out of it.
NJ: I think it has been quite clear to the observers that you have been working a lot on your bowling in the past couple of years. i have noticed it when you made your Test DAYBOO in India last year, you were bowling quite flighted and outside off-stump; the classic wicket-taker’s line for the off-spinner. Maybe rewinding a bit to the last year, it has been a really crazy year for you. You were bought for $1m by the Mumbai Indians, then you made your Test DAYBOO in India straight afterwards. How were those few months for you? It seems to me like a life-defining few months for you.
GM: Yes. Those were a crazy few months! First, my whole career turned around in a short couple of days. First, the auction, which I was found as a massive shock. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was talking to my manager about the numbers, sort of $300,000 to $400,000 range. And at some times I was thinking I’d be lucky to get picked up at all! It all certainly happened pretty quickly after that.
NJ- How did you find out that you went for a million dollars? I think you were playing in an ODI that day.
GM:Yes. I had just gotten out for a first -ball duck to Darren Sammy. I duly got sent off by the West Indian players. As I got back to the change-rooms, I was still steaming, I was sitting down, and I had no idea the auction was on that day. So, I wasn’t thinking about the bubble. About ten to fifteen minutes later, Mickey Arthur and Michael Clarke came out and said, “Maxi, come here.”
I still didn’t want to talk to anyone. And they pulled me to the back room and said: “Do you want to know how much you went for in the auction?” I said, “Ah, I don’t really care.” And they said, “We will tell you, but you can’t let it affect the rest of the game because we haven’t bowled yet.”
“You went for a million dollars.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me!”
I was in a bit of shock. I was watching the rest of the game in a bit of a shock. I tried my hardest to not think about it. But when you go out there and play, you are only probably making $100,000 at most in a season. So, that was a shock. When it comes around, you realise that you are a millionaire! It was a surprise auction, really.
NJ: Yes, that must have been a nice surprise! I think that was the same match where in the second half you got hit for four consecutive sixes by Sunil Narine as well?!
GM: Actually, going through the game, I was ticking off different stats. I went from a first-ball duck, then the auction happened where I was bought for a million – in the second half I was the worst bowler in ODI history at one stage, with 204 deliveries without taking a wicket, and a bad economy rate as well. It wasn’t going too well! I finally got one, then I was on a hat-trick. I got a third one, then Narine hit me for four sixes in a row. That was pretty funny. Michael Clarke turned to me and said, “What are you doing?”
NJ: Going way back – you grew up in Melbourne. What was your upbringing like?
GM: I grew up back in Belgrove South which is at the base of the Dandenongs. It is a very quiet little town, where we lived directly across the Oval from the cricket club. So, the cricket nets were about 200m away. We always just used to walk over to there. My dad loves his cricket, my brother loves his cricket. So, my brother is nine years older than me, I was always watching him play when I was younger. After every day at school I’d get my dad to take me out to the cricket nets, throw me balls and bowl me from half-pitch…in his old age, he’s had to bowl from closer and closer!
I was very lucky in my upbringing because the people in my family were pretty devoted to cricket and excited and willing to help me get as far as possible. I played my first game with my brother when I was 14, in the seniors. I think I was in the 2’s, or the 1’s. Can’t remember. I was incredibly happy to get the opportunity to play with my brother, because he was my idol growing up, watching everything that he did. He is a very smart man, he is very switched on and I always wanted to do everything that he did. Luckily enough, I went a little bit further in cricket than he did, and he still supports me, every day since.
NJ: What did your parents do?
GM: My dad was a computer manager at Reg Hunt Motors my mom has been working at Random House book publishers for the last years years. And I’m desperately trying to make them retire as quickly as possible so they can come and watch me play cricket around the world. I’ll fly them all over the place, make them stay where I stay and just so that they experience what I am experiencing all over the world because it is an amazing opportunity to be out there, and give your parents a look into what is going on in my life. I was lucky enough last year to fly them over for the England ODI series. They got to see the whole T20 and ODI series in England. They loved it. I’ll have been trying to do that again at some stage this season.
NJ: That is really cool! I have got the same deal with my parents – I’ll be their personal doctor, and I’ll drive them from wherever they are to the hospital, to the diabetes clinics and whatnot!
You say that you played a lot of cricket as a youngster and you made your debut in senior cricket aged 14. What were you like initially as a cricketer? Did you initially score a lot of runs, or were you a bit slow getting into it?
GM: I was actually a bit lucky because I had a best friend who was in the same cricket team and we were very competitive. At that time we were of similar abilities. And we both played cricket as 14 year olds and we spurred each other on. I was just trying to hit fours and sixes, and just trying to hit the balls as far as I could. We both opened the batting and we had a competition to see who would score faster. I think having a friend like that, who pushes you all the way from when you are young, that helps the development as well. It is good to be striving to be better as a youngster. It was 11 and 12 when we were playing, when we were trying to just beat each other in the backyard.
NJ: When you were trying to be the mini-slogger, was there any particular cricketer whom you were looking to emulate?
GM: I always watched Adam Gilchrist go, it was incredible. He used to drive the ball on the up and the next ball would be a similar ball and he would cut it. The next ball would be similar and he would pull it for a four or a six. I thought that it was amazing to hit the same ball into different areas for boundaries. For me, growing up, I would practice every different shot in the book, and try to invent new shots. I thoughts innovations in the game were entertaining and they sort of grabbed me a little bit. I was watching a series – I think South Africa versus Australia – and Jonty Rhodes was reverse-sweeping Shane Warne.
I thought that was incredible, watching that. This is amazing! Imagine how far he can go with his shot. Not everyone practiced it. I was excited by a lot of cricketers at that stage, and I thought I want to make sure they were a part of my repertoire. I played a lot in Sydney Cricket and grade cricket and the coaches didn’t like it, so I put it away for a while. Then, I brought it back more recently.
NJ: Did you find it to be a problem as a young cricketer, because cricket coaches tend to want young cricketers to play straight and according to the book? You’re an unorthodox player, so did you ever find that it was a consistent problem growing up?
GM: I don’t think so. What every coach wants to have is for every player to have a good solid technique. If you work on that, you have a good foundation technique. You wouldn’t have to play the reverse-sweep or laps. As a coach, it is hard to harness those innovations as well as the techniques. You have to have the set technique time and expressing session where you are free to do whatever you like – practice aerial shots, practice innovations, something to give you the best chance to expand and showcase whatever you have got. It is actually quite funny because I went back to my local club three weeks ago and I was there to play a charity T20 game.
A few of the under 11’s wanted me to come to the nets with them, so I threw a couple of balls to them, a couple of them weren’t exactly accurate, and a couple went down the leg side! But what I have done is, every single one of them was turning around to whack it opposite-handed. They were all doing it, they were all playing reverse-sweeps, they were all switch-hitting. They were doing everything. I couldn’t believe it. It was instinct. It was pretty cool to watch actually!
NJ: Yes, probably after watching you hit Ravi Ashwin in the India series with your reverse-sweeps! Was that a pre-meditated assault?
GM: I rather enjoy facing Ashwin. I find him very easy to pick up. I suppose the challenge is that he has been such a big part of their attack for such a long time. At the start of the series, we identified him as a guy we could target as there are so many right-handers in our team. And whenever he bowled the carrom ball, I thought that was my chance to hit him left-handed…really, to demoralize him and give him no escape. Generally if he is bowling to a right-hander, he would use the carrom ball to stop any kind of attack, so, I thought that was the best ball to attack and make him bowl off-spin which he feels uncomfortable bowling to right-handers.
NJ: Have you and Ashwin ever had any verbals?
GM: No, I only told him on day one that I could pick him and he didn’t say a word. I said you keep throwing that carrom ball down, I’ll keep whacking it, and then he didn’t say another word. I think when a bowler knows he’s got someone on top of him, they just go underwater. Especially the Indian side, I don’t think they deal too well with someone being on top of them.
If that was an Australian, he’d have thought “I’m gonna get up and show ya!”, like [Mitchell] Johnson. If a batsman said that to Johnson…he’d kill him. He’d bowl them from half-pitch if he could!
NJ: That is interesting that you mention in that sort of detail. I think there is a perception among fans and media right now that Glenn Maxwell will hit almost any ball indiscriminately, there is not much thought process or logic to your hitting. But, it is quite clear that you do have this thought-out strategy. How do you cope with the criticism, which seems to be never-ending? Whenever you get out to what we can call a ‘slog’, you do get criticized even if you have made a big score?
GM: I don’t think I’m great at taking that kind of criticism, I still gets to me every now and then. I think it’s just one of the things that you have to deal with in the modern-day game. When you are chasing big totals, you want to get on top of the run rate. I always feel that I can take down a bowler regardless of the situation. For me, it is about not backing down. I won’t go back in my shell for a couple of overs, that is about it. I will attack the game, and hopefully that will bring more bad balls. Then they will go and search for something, and then will play back into my hand. I didn’t quite get it right in the Aussie summer, there was probably a game where I threw away start and I should have been 100* at the end. I obviously got a pretty public spray from the coach [Darren Lehmann]…and that was warranted!
I was beating myself up about nonstop for a couple of weeks after that. The following game, we were behind the run rate again and I didn’t get anything and the following game I came in and we were struggling. I tried defending and I got out. I sort of look at that game, and asked “what’s the difference between me slogging and me defending?”, I have got 20 off 35 balls defending compared to me getting 35 off 35 balls. There is no real difference. I have got to keep trying to play my natural game, that is what is going to get the best results for the team that I am playing in.
It is a fine line, because you get out slogging and everyone sprays you! You get out blocking, everyone asks “why don’t you play more aggressively?” You can’t win! If you get out, everyone is going to criticize you. It is just about staying as positive as you can and try to ignore the media. That is why I don’t read newspapers because there is endless junk in it that’s just there to bring you down, basically.
NJ: Yes, you should stick to Twitter, that is where the real conversation is!
GM: Yes! I just make the odd reply to a spray…and hopefully that ends it!
NJ: Going back to your criticism and the kind of perception that you don’t think too much about your batting – I remember watching your DAYBOO series for Australia that was in Sharjah. That was playing against some really high-quality spin – Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammed Hafeez as well. You played a couple of really good, mature knocks for a young man making his DAYBOO for Australia. What was it like to make your DAYBOO for Australia in such alien circumstances?
GM: That was quite interesting. When I got picked for Australia, I was playing 2nd XI cricket for Hampshire. Playing for Australia wasn’t the first thing on my mind at that stage. When I got picked, that was a bit of a shock for me. Getting into the team was pretty surreal at that stage. I think I was playing against Afghanistan in my first game, and I got only two runs, sent in as a pinch-hitter, that didn’t work! Then I played that series against Pakistan. I thought I played really well in the three games. I played the spinners well, including Ajmal in the last game, just to get us over the line – we ended up winning by two or three wickets.
To contribute to an Australian international victory, it was something that I never thought would happen as soon as I got in, especially in such foreign conditions against such quality bowling. I thought this is a perfect start to my career and I couldn’t have asked anything better. It seems like a long time ago, because people forget pretty quickly, don’t they?
NJ: Yes, it strikes me, as a neutral observer, that a lot of people judge you just by your last innings, or even more in your case, by your last shot! If you miss a slog and you get clean bowled, then nobody remembers the starting fifty in a chase against Pakistan in some of the toughest conditions that you can imagine.
But, you’re in South Africa right now. What do you like to do during down time?
GM: During my downtime, I am a very keen golfer. I love to get out and experience new golf courses around the world, it is actually quite nice. You meet a lot of new people along the way, you make new contacts. You end up making contact with people who visit Australia and you help them out. It is actually quite enjoyable. You don’t get to meet a whole lot of people when you are sitting just in the hotel room. You try to stay in a cocoon and stay away from the public eye, until it is around game time or training. It’s nice being a golfer. We have around 5-6 golfers in the team, and a lot of us go out and play, we generally go on an afternoon or a morning off so we can go and try out a new golf course. It is worth it, we are going to play tomorrow on our day off. It is a nice way to get away from cricket and just relax.
NJ: So, you’ve got the World T20 coming up. What do you think of Australia’s chances in the World Cup?
GM: I think we have got an amazing chance in the World Cup. Everyone will worry about our batting order, especially when Johnson comes back in the team [Johnson has since been ruled out of the WT20 with an infected toe], they are going to worry about our quicks too. Johnson and Starc are very good quicks. You can add to that the experience of Brad Hogg and the youngster James Muirhead. You have an extremely good bowling line-up. It feels like we have all the bases covered. We have a mix of youth and experience. Hopefully, that does the job for us. The feeling around the group is of absolute confidence. The guys are in good nick and it is good to see the old boys in the mix as well – Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg and Brad Haddin. The three Brads are important for us!
NJ: And, straight after the T20, you have the IPL. You were bought for about a million dollars as well, by Kings XI Punjab. How did you find out this year?
GM: We had just finished playing at a Sheffield Shield game in Sydney. There were a few of the youngsters watching the auctions and updating Twitter every ten seconds, watching the names come up. Dan Christian and Cameron White went unsold before me. I was getting pretty nervous. We were saying: “Looks like they will be out of money.” Jeez, that would be great…sold for a million bucks one year, and I get nothing the next!
It got to my name, and most updates were really quick with the tweets so they know that their player didn’t get sold straight away. When it got to my name, when I was sold, a few of the guys said, “It hasn’t updated.” I said, “Boys, this is a good sign, because last year’s auction took about 4-5 minutes. Let’s hope it doesn’t get updated for another 10 minutes!”
Then, I was waiting outside, I was on the phone, and my mum called me. She asked if I heard the news. “We watched the thing on YouTube, you’ve gone for a million again!” I said “That’s unbelievable news, mum.”
So, I was pretty excited. It was exciting knowing the auction was on, with all the guys watching, all the guys involved. It was quite enjoyable.
NJ: It must have been quite awkward dressing room afterwards if you went for a million and Cameron White and Dan Christian went unsold!
GM: Yes! And Doug Bollinger didn’t get sold either. It was quite awkward around the cricket ground there. One guy hit the jackpot and the rest of them were unsold. Aaron Finch cleaned up as well, so he was happy as well.
NJ: So, dinner was on you guys?
GM: Yeah. And that was pretty fair, too!
NJ: We talked a lot about your perceptions as a T20 player. Ultimately, I assume you want to become a Test cricketer. To further those ambitions, have you considered playing first-class cricket in England, for example? You have already played T20 for Hampshire and Surrey.
GM: I think Kyle Abbott might have pulled out of Hampshire, so I might be the overseas player there. So, I am looking forward to playing some red-ball cricket and play as much first-class cricket over there.
NJ: Long-term, what are your ambitions as an international cricketer? Are there any milestones that you have set for yourself?
GM: I think to get back into the Test side would be an amazing achievement. Having been known as a T20 and ODI player, to prove them wrong and to get myself back into that Test side, that would be amazing achievement. From then, I would make a new set of goals. For me, now, the sole goal is to get back into the Test side. I would be happy, the rest would take care by itself with the way I hit the ball, and with the ball in my hands as well.
NJ: It’s a very strange situation that you have got with the media, where you are still considered as a blind slogger. Your first-class average is 41, and your domestic one day record is up there with one of the best ever, yet you are still perceived as a brainless slogger by quite a few people, especially commentators as we hear. But, one month ago, you were coming in for Victoria who were 9 for 6. You came in batting at no. 8 and you hit 127 off 101 balls.
What do you make of that, where you keep putting in these performances? I think you made 90 in the first innings of that game as well. How do you make these exceptional performances but you still get criticized?
GM: When I am performing like that, putting scores on the board and I still get criticized, that is fine to ignore. Because, I know that is brainless chatter and people have a preconceived idea of what they saw three years ago and that is still stuck in their heads. That is the easiest stuff to ignore. It is when I get 30-40 and that is when it starts to frustrate me more.
After Christmas, in Sheffield I was batting really well. Two hundreds and a 90, like you said. These sort of numbers, I’d expect myself to put up if I was pushing for a Test selection. That is what they are looking for, consistent performances, isn’t it? The only way you are going to get consistency is by playing more in that format. Unfortunately, I only got two Shield games after Christmas, and it is T20 cricket again.
So, it is a bit up and down with the formats, and we have to adapt very quickly. It is hard to get momentum when you look at it that way. Some people will also go against me for not making runs in a T20 game that is just 7 overs. What do you expect? I’m not going to make runs every time I go out to bat either!
NJ: You talk about people criticizing you. Do you think it has changed after you went for $1m to the Mumbai Indians last year? Does that seem to have accelerated criticism in your direction? People call you “Million Dollar Baby”, everybody calls you “The Big Show”. I am not sure that is a nickname of your own making, but you seem to be rather fed up of it!
GM: I can’t stand ‘The Big Show’ as a nickname, I think it’s absolute junk! Any time I could eradicate that, it would be great! The million dollar price tag that I got a year ago probably did accelerate all sorts of criticism. I think in the limelight a lot more people expect ‘million dollar performances’ every time I go out to play. You drop a catch, and they say “Oh, that wasn’t worth a million dollars.” “Oh, you missed it. I paid a million dollars for that?!”
All sorts of little catchphrases attached to it – I wouldn’t change it for the world, that is for sure! But, obviously, I knew that added criticism was going to come, especially once you have played three games in the IPL and suddenly you are the overpaid benchwarmer in the world. That is fine. You just can’t do anything about it, you’ve just cop it and move on. Some of it is funny, some of it I actually enjoy. The guys come with clever sledges, a funny joke, a meme or whatever it is. I actually enjoy it – it’s the brainless stuff that gets to you.
NJ: Tell us about some good on-field sledges that you have come across.
GM- Actually, no one bothers any more. It is like they know if it is my day, most of them get hit to the fence. If it is their day, I’ll be back in the shed in couple of balls. I walk out there and smile and that is the end of it. All the talk, and sledging a guy is fine. If I got sledged, I would laugh.
NJ: That is the George Bailey approach to sledging.
GM: How do you sledge a guy who’s smiling? It doesn’t affect him. I can’t even remember the last time I was sledged. Virat Kohli, he tried! That probably pumped me up to hit him further. I thought “This is interesting. This is a guy who got a duck in their innings. I will show you, I will hit you further.” That was fun
NJ: In the past year, considering it was a breakout year for you, do you think that you have changed as a person?
GM: Actually, I asked my best friend: “Do you think I have changed at all in the last few years?” He goes, “No, not really. You have gotten a lot richer.”
I don’t think I have changed a lot. I am very well grounded, in terms of where I am from, where I was brought up. I don’t think I have changed at all, not since when I was younger. I was always pretty confident and I was always pretty easy going. The best thing is to say that I am the same as I was five years ago.
NJ: We really appreciate you coming on.
GM: Happy to do so – someday I will write a forward-defence blog for you!