Maxwell key for disjointed Australia at World Cup
October 15 2021 11:53 PM
Glenn Maxwell
Glenn Maxwell

AFP/ Sydney

Australia are banking on Glenn Maxwell being at his destructive best at the Twenty20 World Cup to carry a team beset by injuries, poor form, minimal game time and dressing-room discontent.
Rarely, if ever, have Australia had such a disjointed build-up to a major tournament. But Maxwell’s blistering exploits in the Indian Premier League at Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore have been one of the few bright spots. “He looks to be hitting the ball beautifully, he’s confident at the moment, and his backswing looks really impressive,” skipper Aaron Finch said of the 32-year-old, who has been in blazing form coming in at number four rather than five.
“The thing I like is he’s taking games deep, and as we know, he’s as destructive as anyone in the world when he’s on. He’s someone who in World Cups has shown in the past, whether T20 or 50-over, that he can win games for Australia off his own bat.”
Australia will need all that Maxwell, known as the ‘Big Show’, can offer. Along with Josh Hazlewood, he is the only member of the 15-man Australia squad playing regular cricket.
Finch has been among the walking wounded, undergoing knee surgery in August, but is confident of being fit for Australia’s opening game of the World Cup against South Africa on October 23 in Abu Dhabi.
Embattled coach Justin Langer - under scrutiny over his intense leadership and mood swings -will need Finch to come out of the blocks firing with few of his team-mates in form or match-hardened.
Of concern, David Warner was sidelined by his IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad while Steve Smith was out of favour at the Delhi Capitals. Covid and quarantine requirements have also taken their toll with bowling kingpin Pat Cummins opting out of Australia’s limited-overs campaigns in the Caribbean and Bangladesh in July-August.
He has not played since April, while fellow paceman Mitchell Starc turned down IPL riches, and game time, to be with his wife Alyssa Healy as Australia’s women’s team faced India in a home series. Others, including Kane Richardson, Ashton Agar, and Mitchell Marsh, have played just one recent domestic white-ball match, while Adam Zampa, Mitchell Swepson and Matthew Wade have not padded up competitively for months due to Covid-related travel restrictions in Australia.
It doesn’t bode well for Langer’s men in the one format they have yet to win any silverware, although Finch is keen to put a positive spin on their prospects.
“We’ve got guys who have come off long layoffs before, we’ve got guys who have come off long injuries before and it’s not that much different when you’re trying to get yourself up to speed quickly,” he said. “I think that will play into our hands and might allow us to be a little more fresher, to be honest.”
Adding to the intrigue has been player discontent with Langer, who was forced to address negative feedback about his “headmaster-like” leadership, amplified by Australia’s recent poor white-ball form.
It deteriorated so badly that an emergency clear-the-air meeting was called with Test skipper Tim Paine, his deputy Cummins, Finch and Cricket Australia executives. Langer, who said he hoped the row would make him a better coach, has laid low in the aftermath with the World Cup his first tour since the storm blew up.

Paine ‘devastated’ by Pucovski concussion
Australia Test captain Tim Paine said yesterday it was “shattering” to learn that batting prodigy Will Pucovski had suffered another concussion, with Marcus Harris now favourite to open with David Warner in the first Ashes Test.
The 23-year-old, regarded as one of Australia’s best prospects, was struck on the head in the nets this week - believed to be his 10th concussion in a career blighted by injuries and mental health issues.
“Shattering when I found out,” Paine told SEN sports radio of a player who scored 62 on his Test debut against India in January.
“I’ve spoken to him a bit the last few days, he’s improving slowly, I don’t think it’s as bad as some of the others he’s had
“But obviously with his history we have to be very careful with anything around the brain,” he added. “I was devastated to hear that it happened to him.”
Cricket Victoria said in a brief statement late Thursday that their medical staff were working with Pucovski and “he looks forward to returning to training as soon as he is able to do so”, but when that might be is unclear.
Paine said he would have opened the innings against England in Brisbane on December 8.
“In my opinion, he would’ve partnered David Warner in that first Test match, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“But Marcus Harris is probably the guy waiting for the opportunity and he’s just come back from a superb six months over in England playing for Leicestershire... and we know his first-class record has been outstanding for Victoria for a long time.
“He’s probably the frontrunner now for that role.”
Paine also noted that veteran Usman Khawaja was another possibility, and even suggested rookie Bryce Street, who scored an impressive century for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield last week.
Paine is racing the clock himself following invasive surgery last month after suffering pain in his neck and left arm due to a bulging disc.
“I’m doing a bit of pilates, jogging and swimming. It was good to have bat back in hand. I’m moving pretty normally,” he said after returning to light training this week.
“I hit about 20 balls yesterday (Thursday), albeit underarm. The only issue at this stage is strength in my left arm.”
England, led by Joe Root, are due to arrive in Australia next month for the five-Test tour that heads to Adelaide after Brisbane, then Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. 

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