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How India tamed the Maxwell monster

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How India set up Glenn Maxwell (1:55)

Ajit Agarkar, Shaun Tait and the ESPNcricinfo staff discuss India's plan to dismiss Glenn Maxwell (1:55)

Australia are 224 for 2 and in walks Glenn Maxwell. There are 12. 1 overs left for him to wreak havoc. This is the age of the 360-degree batsman and he is one of its vanguards. But it seems India have found a template to beat him, or at the very least keep him quiet.

As soon as Maxwell comes to the crease, the ball is tossed to Jasprit Bumrah. Now this might just seem like a team demanding their best bowler to take a key wicket but there is a story here. For one, Bumrah has 24 balls remaining. And all of them are fairly precious to India because, since he made his debut in January 2016, he has taken 22 wickets in the last 10 overs of ODI innings while maintaining an economy rate of 6.5. He is arguably the most potent death bowler in the world.

Bumrah is used for only one over - the 40th. It, he attempts the yorker and attacks the stumps, ensuring the batsman has very little room to work with. Additionally, with his unusual action and skid off the pitch, finding leverage to hit over the top is difficult. Maxwell manages only one run in five balls.

India turn to Yuzvendra Chahal next and the legspinner ensures he keeps the ball away from Maxwell's reach. The battle begins with a loopy delivery, well wide of off stump, so wide that the batsman toe-ends it to long-off while playing with a horizontal bat. It ends with a stumping.

This in essence is India's plan against a player who, if he gives himself a chance, could take batting to a level unimaginable.

Maxwell has the daring to play a reverse-sweep first ball on a square turner against R Ashwin. And he has the skill to dismantle fast bowlers, playing shots they can't possibly budget for. In the 2015 World Cup, after Wahab Riaz had terrorised Shane Watson, Maxwell faced a short ball that was climbing on him and cramping him for room. He put it away to the point boundary with a shot he called "the back away, look away deliberate cut."

Yet, on this tour, where Maxwell is perhaps third in command of the batting line up after Steven Smith and David Warner, he has made only 58 runs over three innings. Bumrah has come on early in his innings two out of three times and Chahal has dismissed him three out of three times. This is no coincidence, as the table below shows.


Maxwell is a fearsome ball-striker, if he can get under it, so India do their best to stop that happening by bringing on a seamer with an unusual action. Bumrah is difficult to line up, and lining a bowler up early is the absolute basis of power-hitting.

Then comes the actual plan. Yorkers and bouncers, and he is adept at both. While training in Indore, Bumrah came off a short run-up and nailed a pair of boots placed in front of the stumps three straight times.

Though his search for the blockhole manifests as full-tosses on matchday, they don't cost India much. Australia are in danger of slipping to a below-par total on a surface that will become better for strokeplay under lights, and against a batting line-up both long and power-packed.

Maxwell feels that pressure. He knows he has to find release. And this is where Chahal comes in. The legspinner functions as bait. He targets the wide line outside off stump, because even if Maxwell is able to reach that far, he won't be able to time anything properly. That will add to his frustrations and eventually lead to a lapse in judgment.

In Chennai, he was caught dragging the ball to long-on. In Kolkata and Indore, he was stumped running down the pitch too early. None of them were especially unplayable deliveries. But they became wicket-taking because Maxwell almost always goes for the high-risk shot, giving himself no second line of defence.

Someone must have spotted that in the Indian camp. "Mahi (MS Dhoni) and [Virat] Kohli told me to bowl him a turning delivery and keep checking his feet," Chahal had said in Chennai. "So my idea was to bowl to him outside the off stump and if he hits it's fine but keep mixing it up.

"The wicket was turning and if you want to pick a batsman like Maxwell then you have to get it to spin. The plan was to keep attacking but change the line. If he hits a good shot then it's fine but if he hits he should hit from outside the off stump because he is strong on the leg side."

India play enough cricket against the Australians to pick up such cues. And that presents its own challenges in the modern era. These two teams have played ODIs against each other since 1980. That's 131 matches, but over half of those - 73 - have come since 2000. A bowler, in this age, gets plenty of chances to study his target. And this is without including the various T20 leagues, a profit-driven business where wins matter massively. Franchises pay plenty for analysts, demanding individual-specific strategies that could well change over by over.

Surviving under such scrutiny requires a skill that can't be found in the coaching manual. But for Maxwell, the case might be the exact opposite. He has to find a way to weather the tactics used against him, at least initially. Take even India's ploy - making him play hide-and-seek with the ball only succeeds when he loses patience. If he doesn't, they have to move on to Plan B and that finding one may not be that straightforward a 360-degree batsman.