Youth obsession not doing Maxwell any favours
GLENN Maxwell's precarious grip on Australia's number six batting slot revives memories of a 25-year-old curse that has claimed the scalps of three fine Victorian batsmen before him.
Dean Jones (52 Tests) Matthew Elliott (21) and Brad Hodge (six) were all seen to have played less matches under an Australian cap than their talents deserved, yet for reasons perhaps not solely based around form they ran foul of selectors.
Jones's dismissal from the team in 1992 against West Indies at the Gabba has never been properly explained, given he had just returned from topping the averages in Sri Lanka while a rival in Mark Waugh reeled off four successive ducks.
One theory suggests a NSW-based selector in John Benaud determined Jones did not bat well at the Gabba. Either way, he never played another Test.
Elliott, an opener good enough in 1997 to blast the Allan Donald-led South African attack for 85 runs off 113 balls and then notch 199 and 112 in England, was said to have angered Test captain Steve Waugh two years later in the Caribbean when he requested more net time in the middle.
As for Hodge, someone who retired averaging 55.89 in just six Tests, one school of thought suggests his confident attitude got skipper Ricky Ponting off-side, resulting in him being ostracised from the Test arena for most of his career.
Now another prodigious talent in Maxwell is in the gun, despite having averaged 37 in his past four tests on the sub-continent, including a century in India. His ownership of Australia's number six slot is fragile at best as a host of aspirants with dubious CVs challenge.
Victoria's head of cricket operations in Shaun Graf is a Maxwell fan.
"Yes, there have been a couple of small misdemeanours when he missed training a couple of years ago after coming back from the Australian side, but from a red-ball four-day version of the game he's been very good for us, averaging up near 50. We are very happy with his attitude and how he has gone about it," said Graf.
"If they are going to replace him, then it has to be by someone who has ripped the door down. At this point I haven't seen anyone do that. I think Shaun Marsh is a fine player but he has never quite nailed it, maybe through a combination of nerves and injury.
"Mitch Marsh isn't quite good enough with bat or bowl at this point in time and Marcus Stoinis isn't quite there yet. New South Wales have pushed hard for Kurtis Patterson but right now he hasn't done enough. And don't forget Maxwell helped save us in that second innings in Bangladesh."
Graf fears that today's selection panel is obsessed with youth.
"You know it's funny, but if you're picking purely on the best batsman in the country, and you forgot about age and potential, then you could argue Michael Klinger is that batsman. But he hasn't been picked for Western Australia because they are going for Stoinis, Mitch Marsh and Hilton Cartwright. To me Klinger is a fine player and there's no reason why he couldn't have done what Adam Voges did," Graf said.
"Mike Hussey, Adam Gilchrist, Chris Rogers, hardened players like that, they don't get picked because we're getting the direction from above all the time that we have to go young. Twenty-nine year olds are deemed to be old because Greg Chappell has this fascination for young players. That's fine if you have a Michael Clarke or Ricky Ponting or even Doug Walters way back."
Rodney Hogg sees it as a case of the selectors not really knowing because there isn't an obvious candidate.
"It would seem our selectors don't know, meaning if Jake Lehmann peeled off another hundred in this next Shield game then it could be him. I think Hilton Cartwright is a very good batsman but he's coming off a pair. Please don't thrown Travis Head's name at me. What's he average in four-day cricket? Under 35 which isn't a good enough reason to be picked at six in our Test side.
"So what's it come down to? Who Steve Smith likes? I certainly hope not. What we are talking about is no obvious selection. Then you start talking about fielding and clearly Maxwell is a long way in front. I would go with him, although the Poms would have noticed how he got out to a short one the other day against South Australia.