India is the litmus test. For decades it has proven to be the most challenging tour for the Australian cricket team.
The Caribbean once held that mantle, yet the slow and steady decline of West Indian cricket has seen that tour become something of a walk in the park in recent years.
India, however, remains something of a bastion. Australia’s haul of one series victory in 47 years is testament to the challenge it presents.
The epic tales of Matthew Hayden’s preparations for the 2001 tour in order to combat the viciously spinning wickets that spat leg breaks towards his pads and his subsequent sweep-a-thon are legendary.
His compilation of 549 runs in three Tests at an average of 109.80, showed the type of commitment and dedication required to succeed in Indian conditions.
As well prepared as the Aussies were for that tour, the contribution of Hayden and the loss of the seemingly unloseable Test where VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid compiled a three hundred and seventy six run partnership in the face of the follow on, both show just how tough things can get in India.
The team recently selected to face the Indian heat, pressure and talent should be well balanced, intellectually planned and one capable of adaptation.
It needs tough men, prepared to bat long sessions in stifling conditions, often anchored to the crease fending of quality slow bowling on potentially spin friendly surfaces.
The fast bowlers too, will require patience and persistence in the face of long sessions with conditions not conducive to their skillset.
The spinners will need to adapt their lines and lengths very quickly in order to match their Indian counterparts who live and breathe the conditions daily.
This broad array of qualities will be required to test the locals. Unfortunately, Glenn Maxwell possesses very few of them, if any at all.
His selection is one of the most mystifying in Australian cricket history and the selectors have thrown their weight behind the enigmatic Maxwell one too many times for it to be a coincidence.
Considering the summer just gone and the absence of improvement and consistency in his game, there appears no other explanation other than his selection being some sort of ironic joke in homage to Mick Malone.
For the younger readers, Mick Malone was a Western Australian bowler who played one Test on the 1977 Ashes tour to England and potentially missed numerous subsequent opportunites due to his involvement with World Series Cricket.
Statistically his debut reads beautifully. Taking 6 for 83 with the ball and compiling 46 with the bat, resulted in a career bowling average of 12.83 and a batting average of 46.00.
What we would give for a lower order player to be anywhere near those figures, but of course, the numbers are completely unsustainable. However, the selection of the inconsistent Maxwell almost makes me believe that the selectors got their columns mixed up.
If you invert the batting and bowling stats of the Victorian you create a decent cricketer. Could the selectors have confused their excel spreadsheet?
Unfortunately, Malone was only given that one chance, although he did perform well in one day cricket when the game reunited and the Benson and Hedges Cup dominated our screens through the latter part of summer.
In contrast, Maxwell gets another opportunity based on….well absolutely nothing. Mediocre Sheffield Shield numbers (a batting average of 25.8 and a bowling average of 86.00 from three shield appearances), an ODI batting average of 32.33 for the summer (as if that should count for Test selection anyway) and a career ODI bowling average of 38.15 with an economy rate of 5.52.
Hardly anything to write home about, but that is indeed the point, Maxwell will be writing home from a tour of India in which his role is so hazy and unpronounced it is ridiculous.
The India A game last week provided further evidence of this fact. He batted an eight in the first innings, made 16 not out and bowled a measly six overs for 26 runs.
Batting at three in the second innings he was out for one. What in the world is he actually there for? Is he a batsman? Certainly not at Test level and without a Test for near on three years he certainly hasn’t won his spot by applying pressure to the incumbents.
Perhaps a bowler? If so, why a paltry spell in a total that exceeded four hundred. Surely if there was any intention to play him, a solid fifteen over day with the ball was required considering the minimal chance of success with the bat.
These ‘sparkling’ numbers prove that his selection is based entirely on a reputation built through shortened versions of the game, the media and some sort of juvenile fixation with flamboyance and extravagance, as opposed to any actual talent.
Maxwell didn’t bowl at all throughout the recent one day series against New Zealand, nor against Pakistan, yet selectors have chosen to give him a flight to India to contribute to Australia’s tilt at claiming the Border-Gavasker trophy.
There is no form on the board with bat, particularly in India where the challenge requires discipline, focus and concentration; things for which Maxwell is not well known, or indeed with the ball where success lies in bowling long spells and tying opponents down with flight and variations in pace and bounce.
Throwing down darts in one day cricket and launching a few catapulted sixes over the pickets in mickey mouse T20s is as far from solid preparation for an Indian tour as you could possibly get.
Could the selection panel even remotely consider not insulting my intelligence for once and realise that Maxwell is nothing more than an excellent fielder, with a great arm and the potential to win a game through a couple of powerful blows. The proverbial flat track bully.
After watching the positive development of a few young batsmen through the summer and finally seeing a little bit of vision and futuristic thinking in selection, it is sad that a seat on the plane has been afforded to an enigmatic and undisciplined player who has failed to take opportunities when they have been presented to him.
Perhaps the seeming shift in selection wasn’t so clever from the selection panel, perhaps it was mere necessity where no other option remained. Perhaps the calls from the outer became so strong that common sense finally prevailed.
Sadly, with Maxwell it will be more of the same. A spot on an Australian cricket tour is something full of honour and one which is won through dint of hard work. Personally, hard work and Glenn Maxwell don’t seem to be synonymous right now.
Hopefully one day they will be, but at the moment, his selection is as farcical as it gets and an insult to the great Mick Malone.