Half a Maxwell for six Afghans
"When I looked into his eyes, I felt like he was possessed," remarked R Ashwin, reflecting on Virat Kohli's determination during the 2022 Twenty20 World Cup semi-final against Pakistan. However, when Glenn Maxwell took center stage to rescue the sinking Australian Titanic, following a collision with the Afghan icebergs, there was no hint of possession in his eyes, only a steely determination to overcome the pain.
This wasn't just another spectacular T20 innings like Kohli's or Kapil Dev's iconic 175. Maxwell was battling through a strained injury, making even standing upright a challenge. To label it the greatest innings in international cricket might still be a bit more superlative; perhaps it's best described as the finest ODI innings of all time!
The possessed Kangaroos
Australian cricket has witnessed its fair share of remarkable comebacks in World Cups, with players like Andrew Symonds, Michael Bevan, and Andy Bickel rescuing the team from dire situations. But this was different. Glenn Maxwell's courage and resilience stood as a beacon of hope against Afghanistan; he was the result of multiplying Symonds, Hussey, and Bevan together, not merely adding them up.
Maxi's injury was unlike anything cricket had seen before. He often crumbled in agony between overs, requiring frequent visits from the Australian physio Nick Jones. His lower back and legs needed constant attention, and dehydration was a constant threat. The number 10 batsman, Adam Zampa, had to be prepared to step in twice, but Maxwell knew that leaving the field would mean handing Afghanistan two more wickets on a silver platter.
Undeterred, he continued, barely able to reach in front of the stumps. His feet remained rooted, save for a couple of extraordinary switch hits. Afghan bowlers and fielders were left baffled as Maxwell's unorthodox batting sent the leather ball crashing into the stands. Australia needed 60 runs to win after the 40th over and Maxswell was 58 runs away from a double century. He achieved both, in an innings that defied belief.
Charlie Chaplin Redux
Commentators likened Maxwell's struggle to Charlie Chaplin's comedic antics as he tried to manipulate the strike by limbing. The analogy was apt, as his movements resembled a silent film running at 16 frames per second.
The pain, visible to the audience, seemed momentarily forgotten each time the ball met the bat. Maxwell's body defied all conventional batting techniques, remaining imbalanced on one leg. Boundaries appeared almost as if they were summoned by some otherworldly force, channeled through Maxwell's wrists of steel.
On the other end, Pat Cummins, known for his big hitting, was reduced to a spectator. His contribution to their record 8th wicket partnership of 202 runs was a mere 12 runs from 68 balls. In contrast, Maxwell scored 201 runs from 128 balls, all while battling excruciating pain.
A New Chapter in Cricket History
Maxwell etched his name into the annals of cricketing history. His innings marked the first double century in the second innings of an ODI, and it became Australia's highest individual ODI score, all from the bat of a number six batsman. No team had ever chased such a substantial target at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, and no Australian side had achieved such a feat in a World Cup match.
As he waited for one last chance to make amends for his earlier dropped catch, Mujeeb ur Rahman felt the full brunt of Maxwell's extraordinary abilities. Maxwell, who took 22 runs from Mujeeb's five balls to secure Australia's victory and complete his double century, raised his arms and smiled through the pain. His enduring image serves as a reminder that, at times, certain individuals have the power to rewrite the pages of history.
The Afghan bowlers, including four world-class spinners, threw everything they had at Maxwell. But he remained immovable, his lower body refusing to cooperate. His innings, beyond the wildest dreams of any cricket enthusiast, cemented his status as a legendary figure in the sport's history. That missed catch by Mujeeb ur Rahman will forever haunt his cricketing legacy.