As recently as 12 months ago, there were many who considered Glenn Maxwell as the symbol of everything that is wrong with modern cricket.
Plucked from relative obscurity and thrust onto the stage of cricket's guilty pleasure, the Indian Premier League, the 25-year-old and his $1 million contract came to be seen as representative of the true extent of the game's lamentable and cash-fuelled shift.
In a sport that has prided itself on challenging the physical and psychological fabric of a man through gruelling hardship, the young and sometimes rash Victorian had seemingly escaped the game's grasp, rapidly rising to prominence on the back of his ability to thump a white ball over the fence rather regularly.
Yet in spite of that almost toxic outside perception, Maxwell now stands as the biggest international star of Twenty20 cricket just 12 months on.
Much of the Australian's storied ascension to the pinnacle of the format can be attributed to his surprisingly grounded character. While his previously reckless batting was regularly viewed as a refusal to change, Maxwell has allowed superstardom to wash into his life without letting it wash away his connection to his roots.
Indeed, for those that haven't interacted with Maxwell—and this writer has, having played at the same Melbourne-based grade club between 2003 and 2006—the Kings XI Punjab phenomenon retains a delightfully throwback attitude despite an obvious confidence.
He still drives an old Nissan Maxima—the same car that has driven him to training and back since his early 20s. Until late last year, he still lived with his parents in Melbourne's outer suburbs. In the fleeting weeks, he returns home, and he can often be found at the training sessions of former club Fitzroy-Doncaster or in the nets with longtime junior coach, Richard Clifton.
When Maxwell speaks of his unassuming car in particular, you get a genuine sense of how unchanged the 25-year-old really is.
In an interview with Jesse Hogan of the Sydney Morning Herald, Maxwell said:
I've been given endless amounts of stick to try and upgrade it, but it's got a bit of character. It's not the best-looking car in the world, but it fits my golf clubs and cricket bag, so it's doing the job at the moment.
I reckon about 19 out of 20 people say, 'You're a millionaire now, you can't be driving around in that thing.' But I don't think it really matters. I'm generally only in the country for three months a year—as long as it doesn't break down it suits me fine.
The IPL, however, is far from being a popularity and decency contest—a fact Maxwell will be all too aware of. But understanding the batsman's disposition is key to grasping how the precocious talent has thrived unlike any other, in circumstances that would have utterly crippled others.
In the ongoing edition of the glamour event, the spectacular Australian has crashed his way to a tournament-leading 435 runs at a giddying strike rate of 203.27 (the next best for a player with 100-plus runs is 155.71).
Yet Maxwell's capture of the spotlight in India shouldn't come as a shock. This is a storm that had been brewing since the beginning of his professional career.
More than three years ago, the then 22-year-old blasted Victoria to a remarkable victory over Tasmania with a 19-ball half-century in the Ryobi Cup at Bellerive—the fastest fifty in Australian domestic history. Just a month later, he added his maiden first-class hundred to his CV with a rapid 103 against South Australia.
Naturally, the Victorian's brazen and sometimes thoughtless approach frustrated those around him, but Maxwell clearly saw his strengths aligning with the game's evolution and stuck to his methods.
Australian selection quickly followed in 2012, as he joined the national limited-overs sides for their trip to the United Arab Emirates for matches against Afghanistan and Pakistan. After taking three matches to find his feet, Maxwell crunched an unbeaten 56 from 38 deliveries in his fourth international appearance to give Australia's selectors a glimpse at the talent they had in their hands.
Soon after, the Victorian landed that notorious first IPL contract, and although he was a peripheral figure in the Mumbai Indians' title-winning campaign, it was in India where Maxwell put down his marker several months later.
Amid the gluttony of runs witnessed in Australia's limited-overs tour of the country in late 2013, the still-emerging batsman thumped three rapid half-centuries in five matches, the last of which saw Maxwell annihilate 60 runs from a staggering 22 deliveries in Bangalore.
With his stock and notoriety on the rise upon returning home, the South Belgrave junior went about bolstering his first-class record by scoring 544 runs from six matches in the Sheffield Shield at an average of 45.33.
Among that tally was a truly phenomenal innings in which Maxwell thumped 127 from just 102 deliveries at No. 8 after his Victorian side had collapsed to 9-6 in the worst start to an innings in the history of the first-class game in Australia.
Further impressive performances were forthcoming from the dashing batsman during Australia's T20 indulgence, the Big Bash League, setting Maxwell up for a dazzling stretch in a calendar year dominated by limited-overs cricket.
Of course, Maxwell's now well-documented explosions in the recent ICC World Twenty20 and ongoing IPL have launched the Australian to the forefront of the sport. But, for those whose eyes haven't strayed elsewhere, his latest outbursts merely form part of the anticipated journey. Those feet of his have remained firmly planted, too.
Suddenly a global phenomenon, Maxwell appears set for a spectacular ride at the apex of the game—the 2015 World Cup on home soil representing a possible crowning point for the cricket world's newest star.
While Maxwell is currently changing the game, nothing about the game is changing him. Possibly some new seat covers for the Maxima will be as far as it gets.
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