With a healthy dose of entertainment, drama and some regular 'twists', 'The Glenn Maxwell Show' has opened to a rousing reception in the first week of the Indian Premier League 2014 in UAE.
After spending most of his time on the bench for the Mumbai Indians in the last couple of seasons, Maxwell has found solace in his new environment. That Maxwell has coolly steered his side in two successful run chases, making an absolute mockery of big totals (205 vs Chennai Super Kings and 191 vs Rajasthan Royals) adds weight to the punt that Punjab took when they bid in excess of a million for a player who hardly got an opportunity to play in his previous seasons.
At the post-match ceremony after Punjab's seven-wicket win over Rajasthan on Sunday, Maxwell was asked a tongue-in-cheek question if this season provides him an opportunity to show what Mumbai Indians have missed, he smartly steered cleared of any controversial remark and admitted he was fortunate to have been picked up by Punjab. Yet, the idea of redemption adds to an already magnificent plot. (Related: I play well under pressure, says Maxwell)
In Australian compatriot George Bailey, Maxwell has a skipper who will back him to the hilt, allowing him the space and freedom to carry on with his free-flowing, nonchalant approach to the game. Even amidst the frenzy of smashing deliveries high over deep midwicket and executing inch-perfect reverse sweeps on multiple occasions, the madness of Maxwell's batting is not devoid of method. In both the run chases, Punjab had to get past a sticky period when runs began to dry up and pressure began to mount. Even as the gap between the runs required and the balls remaining widened, a great sense of self-confidence allowed Maxwell to see out a few overs before deciding to shift gears.
On Sunday, the lull came when crafty medium pacer Rajat Bhatia and veteran leg spinner Pravin Tambe bowled in tandem. From 56/2 in 7 overs, Punjab crawled along to 69/2 in 10 overs, needing to score 123 runs to win from the next set of 10 overs.
What seemed like a herculean task, going by the way the first half of their innings panned out was achieved with ease by Maxwell's application and his growing sense of self-confidence. From the little of his batting that the world has witnessed in the IPL so far, it is clear that Maxwell comes from a school of thought that prefers to have a calm and composed start and gradually breakdown the opposition's attack - and morale, rather than going out hammer and tongs from the start. He may not force captains to spread the field the moment he steps on the field like a Chris Gayle or a Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but by the end of his carnage, most teams will be left wondering what just hit them.
From a fringe player at the Delhi Daredevils and a million-dollar bench warmer at the Mumbai Indians, Maxwell has made a seamless transition into a brutal entertainer at Kings XI Punjab, slamming 95 off 43 balls and 89 off 45.
Through his two monumental efforts, he has also covered for his team's shortcomings on the field and their lack of quality spin options to exploit the UAE conditions. Whether he can sustain this form will go a long way in determining the success or failure of his team this season. For the moment, however, the mood in the Punjab camp will be a happy one, celebrating two wins in their first two fixtures for the first time in seven years of the tournament.