Going 'wow' with Maxwell

Glenn Maxwell, with cramps on both his feet, went on to single-handedly help Australia to an unlikely win
Glenn Maxwell, with cramps on both his feet, went on to single-handedly help Australia to an unlikely win ©AFP

"WOW". The exclamation escaped Pat Cummins' mouth the moment it did yours as you bumped into the Australian captain outside the press conference room. It was instantaneous. It was simultaneous. You weren't the only two though.

"Wow". It's what thousands around the Wankhede Stadium had exclaimed in unison, repeatedly and on cue, for nearly an hour. It wasn't just them though.

"Wow". It's what millions around the cricket world had yelled out at their television screens, lamenting for sure about not being at the Wankhede in the flesh to witness arguably the most immortal knock in white-ball cricket history.

As for us, like Cummins would say, we will always talk about the night we were there when Glenn Maxwell produced the "greatest thing you'll ever see on a cricket field". Hyperbole? Just for this one time, no, definitely no.

"Wow." What else could you say about Glenn Maxwell? What else could you say about what he'd just pulled off? How else could you feel about having witnessed the most extraordinary performance with bat in hand probably in the history of the sport?

This was if anything more than a special performance and more than just an exceptional effort. This was the ultimate embodiment of genius. This was a freakishly gifted enigma etching his genius in stone. This was a moment in time. The kind that generally gets enshrined by someone "building the man a statue". Only that it felt like Maxwell was already in statue form, his feet seemingly stuck in concrete owing to the crippling cramps. His body immobile. His toes, his hamstring, his back, his calves, all having retired for the night in the November humidity of Mumbai.

It was a day Maxwell defied everything we thought we knew about batting. Footwork? What for?

A strong lower base to generate power for hitting sixes? Nah, not needed.

Running between the wickets? I'll just power walk across the pitch like a penguin rushing across from shore to sea.

There he was creating his own base, from waist above but with a seized-up spine, to smash Rashid Khan over the long-on fence into the second tier of the Sachin Tendulkar Stand. There he was generating power from nothing but his forearms to slap a Naveen-ul-Haq slower delivery from outside his off-stump to halfway up the Vijay Merchant stand to the western side of the ground. There he was punching length deliveries from Azmatullah Omarzai past the cover fielder and managing to create enough momentum to beat two boundary fielders. There he was playing the masterstroke of this masterpiece, the reverse ramp with no power source but his wrists off his stumps and getting the ball to travel way over the third fence. There he was operating on nothing but heart, will power, and that inimitable Glenn Maxwell spirit, playing inexplicable shots, which after a point you didn't even bother trying to fathom, and instead allowed yourself the luxury to simply go, "Wow." Maybe at times with your hands over in your mouth, in utter shock. In complete awe. In total bewilderment.

It wasn't just the times he actually found the boundary though. There were a few other shots, a couple of leaden-footed drives that would have got him a couple on any other day, which again were executed with no plausible explanation as to how he did it. And then he started moving, equally inexplicably. Cummins had faced 23 consecutive dot balls at that point at the other end, with the pair clearly having decided not to run between wickets, because Maxwell simply couldn't. But the push from Cummins evaded Rashid's right hand, and Maxwell amazingly decided to make his way across the pitch, moving like he was standing atop a wet cloth while trying to mop the floor.

It was while attempting a similar single a few overs earlier that he'd collapsed to the ground. He'd in fact laid completely prone as if he was on top of a stretcher, his hands lying by his sides, his legs joined together, his head flat on the ground, in the middle of the Wankhede. Maxwell had hit the ground at the striker's end as if he'd been shot, his body collapsing under him as he somehow completed a single, hobbling half the distance of the pitch. He'd been attended a few times by the medical staff already for cramps by then. But this time, even the umpires looked concerned, Alex Wharf bending down to check on the Victorian superstar. Even Cummins looked convinced that Maxwell's body had had enough. He signalled for Adam Zampa to come out. And the leg-spinner even walked down the steps and was positioned to cross the ropes and let Maxwell retire hurt. Only for Maxwell to then get back to his feet, barely, and decide to continue on, mainly as we'd learn later, on the advice of physio Nick Jones.

Maxwell had by this time got to within a boundary of his 150. He'd already played an innings that would never be forgotten. He'd already scripted an epic. But he wasn't done yet.

For all the understandable bemusement around what he was getting his barely-functioning body to do, there were also the odds against Australia that Maxwell was smashing to bits. Australia were reeling at 7/91 when Cummins walked out to join him, still over 200 runs away from their victory target. There was the threat of the second-best bowling attack of the tournament in Afghanistan, who had already run through the Australian top-order, finishing the job. There was Rashid bowling as well as he has all World Cup. This was Afghanistan's fairy tale that Maxwell was living in, at least at the start. It was Afghanistan's fairy tale that he was about to transform into his superhero saga.

Not to forget that in a bizarre twist, Maxwell and Cummins, as part of their world-record stand, had decided that the able-bodied batter would not bother scoring and it was the batter with barely a body left who'd have to do all the scoring. And so he did, in one of the most unimaginable partnerships you'll ever see play out in any format of cricket. Just to put it into perspective, while Maxwell finished up scoring the first-ever ODI double ton in a run-chase, Cummins had the best seat in the house at the other end. And he ended up with a 68-ball unbeaten 12, the second slowest double-figure innings in a World Cup match, the third slowest ever in the history of ODI cricket. His role was mainly to keep the Afghans at bay, their world-class spinners in particular, and then get wowed like everyone else by Maxwell's magic at the other end. So much so that at times he stood at the edge of the pitch adjacent to the one being used for the match whenever Maxwell was on strike, his bum resting on his bat handle. And like everyone else around the Wankhede, except those in the Afghanistan camp, he stood applauding every time his remarkable teammate managed to disregard the perceived limits of the human body and sent the ball soaring into the night sky. And into the thousands crowding the stands at the Wankhede, where they sat eating off his hands, the only part of him that remained functional through it all.

You wonder if one innings or performance can define a cricketer's legacy. Well, it certainly can, if you end up playing the greatest knock the sport has probably seen, and that too on half a leg and a handful of other muscles still in use.

Like with all epics in all folklore, and as one that will be told and retold through the ages, there was an inevitability to Maxwell not only finishing it off but doing so in a way that would leave him speechless and struggling to soak it all in as those who were there and those who will hear about it for generations to come.

The man who fell off a golf cart and got concussed a week before had left everyone else feeling silly, disillusioned and overwhelmed, even as he soared to enter the pantheon of the greats. And like Pat Cummins, all we can do is to bow down to Glenn Maxwell and his freakish genius and go, "Wow".



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