Axings, leaves and a new era

 

Direct Hit's Glenn Maxwell offers a candid insight into his Test omission, his lowest point in cricket, and his hopes for Australia under Justin Langer

It was nice to get back in Aussie colours in our T20I against the UAE the other night, and even better to get a win! It's great to see us taking the opportunity to play an up-and-coming cricket nation – we've seen the kinds of players countries like Afghanistan and Nepal have already been able to produce.

It's been a busy few months – as it always seems to be – on the cricket calendar lately, and I know there was plenty of talk about me being omitted from the Test squad for the Pakistan series. It was definitely disappointing but I'm not the only one that wasn’t named – there were a few other guys that were in the same position. So I certainly wasn’t thinking 'people are against me' or anything like that, it was just that the selectors went a different way. That's their decision, and I've just got to make sure I make their decision for the next squad really difficult, by stacking up a lot of runs and putting pressure on those guys that are in there.

Maxwell pictured centre enjoying a moment with the VIC Bushrangers as they celebrate their recent victory in the JLT cup final over TAS

Maxwell pictured centre enjoying a moment with the VIC Bushrangers as they celebrate their recent victory in the JLT cup final over TAS

I felt lucky in that there were quite a few people who jumped to my defence when I wasn't selected. Ricky Ponting was one, and it was lovely to have a guy like him share some nice words that I probably didn't expect to hear. It was a bit disappointing that there was a lot of media about those who didn't make that tour, which meant guys like Aaron Finch and Travis Head, who were on their first Test tours, had a little bit of shine taken off things.

You can never beat guaranteed selection when you're in and out of the side, and I'd only been brought in as a replacement in South Africa. And not having played cricket leading up to the tour, I had no form for the selectors to go by.

So it all went against me but to be honest, I've been through worse. That's not to downplay it – I was disappointed – but you do find perspective as you get more experience. I remember after I left that ball at the Gabba in the Big Bash back in 2014, it got pretty bad. I was pretty depressed. I was flat. I was low. I started to really hate the game.

I was living with Aaron Finch then and we were both really struggling after Phillip Hughes's death. It was a pretty average time. I couldn't concentrate on cricket. I was daydreaming in the field, imagining other things I could be doing with my time. When I batted, I got the shakes whenever I copped a short ball. I even started doubting my ability at the top level. I remember in the first game of the Big Bash that summer, I got a rough caught behind decision when I was trying to play a reverse sweep. I was filthy. Then a week later, I walked onto the Gabba, charged the first ball I faced, and shouldered arms.

That was the hardest thing for me to understand – I was at such a high at some stage during 2014 where I felt like I was hitting the ball so well. In the IPL, I just remember the game feeling really easy – it was almost like I could see what the bowler was going to do before he did it. That just felt enjoyable. It wasn't a job. It wasn't a bore going to cricket. It was exciting because it felt like I was about to entertain a crowd, and like I was about to win a game for my team.

So to get to such a low, where I was charging down the wicket and not playing a shot and getting bowled, it was hard to fathom. Mentally I was in a lot of trouble.

Maxwell in action during the 2014 IPL // BCCI

Maxwell in action during the 2014 IPL // BCCI

I spoke to Ricky Ponting over a few coffees. I did mention at one stage to him that I wasn't enjoying it – that I literally hated the game and I didn't want to be there. It was a chore to go to training, it was a chore to go to games.

And Ricky was able to find something that sparked inside of me. He told me to get into a contest.  When you find a contest, that's when you're at your best, he told me. You'll enjoy the game – you'll find that again. He was right. I picked a battle in my very next game and immediately felt like I was back.

It's good having those sorts of lessons to fall back on. And Justin Langer has been clear about what he wants, if I'm going to get back into the Test team. He said it in the media at the time – they want more hundreds from me. So I'm going to continue to play whatever role I need to play for my state, and if there's opportunities to get hundreds, I'll try and get them.

I had my first taste of life under 'JL' during the series in England, which obviously didn't go anywhere near how we wanted it to, but there were still a lot of small pluses. We got some game time into some young guys and they got to experience how hard it is at international level. We obviously came up against the best side in the world at the moment, and they played to their full potential. It was actually pretty awesome to watch and it gave us something to strive for heading into next year’s World Cup, so it's lifted the everyone's motivation.

JL’s mantra is 'if you can be fitter than the opposition, you can outlast them in the middle'. He wants us to be mentally fit as well, and I see that as a big strength of the Australian team going forward under his leadership – developing that mental toughness. That's definitely a key focus of this Australian team.

We'll head back over to the UK for the World Cup next year having taken a few pointers from that tour for sure. We had individual players stepping up at different times. In the last game of the series at Old Trafford, big Billy Stanlake ran through their top order. Little things like that were really good to see from the young group. They were almost learning international cricket on the go, some with not a lot of state cricket behind them either, and that can be very daunting. They certainly got thrown into a pretty fiery cauldron at the start of their careers, but they're only going to learn and grow from that. When it comes to the World Cup, hopefully they’ve learnt and they're stronger from the experience.