Last season's million-dollar man is looting the happiness of Indian Premier League teams this season. Glenn Maxwell has been the toast of this year's tournament so far and the Aussie all-rounder is justifying every penny Kings XI spent on him at the February auctions. Ignored by Mumbai Indians this season, Kings XI clinched Maxwell at six times his base price of Rs 1 crore after Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils made desperate bids for the 25-year-old Victorian. (Scorecard | Highlights | Match report)
Maxwell has set the desert on fire. With knocks of 95, 89 and 95, Maxwell has tormented bowling attacks but what has caught the eye is his ability to improvise on strokes and catch everyone by surprise. Maxwell has played the switch-hit to perfection and some of his strokes have defied the grammar book. Even Kevin Pietersen, the man who made the switch-hit famous, will have to think of better methods to overtake the rampaging Aussie. (Also read: Dhawan rues dropped catches)
The Melbourne Renegades star has transformed the way Kings XI Punjab are playing their cricket this season. On Tuesday night, Kings XI batted first. This was the first time they were not chasing a score. After Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara gave Kings XI a decent start, Maxwell pressed the accelerator and took full advantage of Sharjah's flat batting track. This win will give the team a lot more confidence in its future games.
Dropped on 11 by David Warner, Maxwell rode his luck on Tuesday and bludgeoned nine sixes in his 43-ball 95 that left Sunrisers Hyderabad needing to score a challenging 194 to win. Shikhar Dhawan's Hyderabad lost by a whopping 72 runs. Kings XI Punjab is a team that has batsmen with mixed abilities. While Pujara is more copybook, Maxwell and Sehwag are two men with stunning bat-speed. Both rely on timing, the whiplash speed of the willow and of course, power. Most stroke makers rely on these qualities. Maxwell uses a fair dose of intelligence too. (Match in pics | Standings)
In an interview to www.iplt20.com earlier this week, Maxwell said: I actually try to manipulate the fielders as much as I can. It depends on the bowler and the size of the boundary, which I try to target. I just try to target areas that I feel are my strengths and also survey the field. At the moment, I have got something that is working for me and I am going to keep trying to do that as much as I can."
Maxwell is the first player to score over 200 runs in this edition of the IPL. His tally of 279 in three innings, including three fifties, at an average of 93.00. He the first batsman to hit three fifties in the present competition and the seventh batsman to accomplish the feat of recording three consecutive fifties in IPL. Gautam Gambhir is the only one to achieve the distinction twice. (Related: Can't be like Maxwell, says Pujara)
"I have hit a really good patch of form now, and hopefully, I can continue for the next 12 games in the Pepsi IPL, and beyond," said Maxwell, an AB De Villiers fan. "Hopefully, the luck stays with me and I can keep making some big scores," he added.
Maxwell is surely making the statisticians work overtime. He is the first batsman to score three successive innings of 80-plus and has recorded 17 sixes in three innings, the highest by a batsman in the present tournament. Team-mate David Miller has the next best record -- 10 in three innings.
If T20 is all about enjoyment and giving the crowd something to remember, Maxwell is doing that very well. His nine sixes on Tuesday is the most in an innings in the present tournament. Maxwell has emulated the feat of Adam Gilchrist (9 in his innings of 106 off 55 balls versus Royal Challengers Bangalore at Dharamsala on May 17, 2011). Both now share a record for most sixes in an innings for Kings XI Punjab.
"I don't get burdened by pressure. Pressure is something that you put on yourself. I put pressure on myself before a game or before I go out to bat. But once when I go out there to bat, I just enjoy it and have a little bit of fun. I look at the total and take it from there," said Maxwell.
Maxwell's 95 is the third highest by any batsman against Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL. The highest is 99 not out off 52 balls by Suresh Raina for Chennai at Hyderabad on May 8, 2013 and 98 not out off 53 balls by Shane Watson for Rajasthan at Jaipur on April 27, 2013.
The Maxwell show may just dominate this long tournament. Will Kings XI be one of the two teams in the title round in Mumbai on June 1? Although it is too early to predict, the signs are quite promising.
(With inputs from statistician Rajesh Kumar)