ICC World Cup: Mad Max, always ready to chase down a ‘cool’ landmark
Love him or hate him, Australia's star batter Glenn Maxwell will keep on batting the only way he knows
A look at the top eight fastest centurions in the history of the 50-over World Cup throws up some of the finest exponents of attacking batsmanship such as AB de Villiers, Rohit Sharma or Eoin Morgan. Yet, only one name features there twice — that of Glenn Maxwell.
The ‘Mad Max’ of Australian cricket, who at 35 has been part of two World Cup winning squads for the yellow shirts (the 50-over showpiece in 2015 and World T20 in 2021), has always chosen to live dangerously. While there is no doubting the fact that he has been one of the cleanest hitters of the ball in modern cricket, his cavalier attitude has continued to both exhilarate and exasperate fans.
Speaking after his century off 40 balls against a mediocre Netherlands attack at Delhi's Arun Jaitley Stadium on Wednesday 25 October, a candid Maxwell admitted to being aware that the landmark of fastest century had been in sight. ‘’I’m very aware of them. I’m very aware of the balls faced. I love the fastest 50, fastest 100 records. I think they are pretty cool records. Sometimes to the detriment of myself, I’ve probably pushed the boundaries a bit too much,’’ he said.
Honest words, but on many an occasion, an attitude that has proved detrimental to the cause of Team Australia. Take the case of the previous game against Pakistan, where openers David Warner and Mitchell Marsh had set up a launchpad for the likes of Maxwell to build on, but he fell to the first ball in attempting a wild slog. The blow-hot-blow-cold has happened far too often in Maxwell’s career, both in his international career and IPL, but then he is not about to change his ways.
The script unfolded a little differently against qualifiers Netherlands when Australia rode on Warner's century to coast to 244/2, and then slipped to 290/6 in the 43rd over. Maxwell, in conventional mode until then, used his cricketing nous to unleash the beast in him — knowing full well that it was one of the best opportunities to pile up a bagful of runs in case of a net run-rate coming in the way of Australia's semi-final chances.
There is no doubt about the qualitative difference between two of his quickest centuries in a gap of eight years. The one in 2015 (off 51 balls) came against a more experienced Sri Lankan attack at the much larger Sydney Cricket Ground, while the erstwhile Kotla has turned out to be a killing field for bowlers.
Just ponder this: South African Aiden Markram’s record of the quickest World Cup hundred (49 balls) against Sri Lanka lasted all of 20 days. Rohit Sharma, in the interim, cruised to one in 63 balls against Afghanistan.
The shorter boundaries and the flat bed of a wicket at Delhi and Bengaluru, and the presence of batters like Maxwell, has loaded the dice way too much in favour of batters. But that’s a discussion for another day.