IPL 2014: Bowlers Playing into the Hands of Glenn Maxwell and David Miller

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2014

DHAKA, BANGLADESH - MARCH 23:  Glenn Maxwell of Australia celebrates reacing his fifty during the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 match between Australia and Pakistan at Sher-e-Bangla Mirpur Stadium on March 23, 2014 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Despite the blingy kits and regal names belonging to its teams, the plethora of sponsors splashed across its shirts and the dollar figures attached to its auction, the Indian Premier League isn't as distinctly different as it likes to make out.

Lying aesthetically somewhere in the vast middle ground between an international football tournament and a World Darts Championship, the IPL is revolutionary in a conceptual sense, but not so in a playing one. The sport's core fundamentals remain pertinent in spite of the tournament's extravagant exterior.

That, of course, is evident in the continued success of players such as AB de Villiers and Mitchell Johnson in the IPL. The pair are recognised as the best in their fields in the Test arena, but there's an obvious crossover in the skills and thought processes from Test cricket to India's guilty pleasure.  

Yet in this year's edition, there's a strange phenomenon emerging around the Kings XI duo of Glenn Maxwell and David Miller.

DHAKA, BANGLADESH - APRIL 04:  David Miller of South Africa bats during the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 semi final between India and South Africa at Sher-e-Bangla Mirpur Stadium on April 4, 2014 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

In the Punjab pair's presence, something changes in their opponents. Colour runs out of their skin. Trepidation floods into their eyes. Ideas bolt from their minds. Recognised skills disintegrate.

Whether consciously or not, as they stride to the crease, the duo's opponents seem to continually abandon the basic component of bowling: Plotting the batsman's downfall.

Those who have watched Maxwell and Miller heap misery on the IPL's bowlers this season will have no doubt been in awe of the pair's fearsome bludgeoning. It's been brutal. Unprecedented even, given it's consistency. But it's difficult to dispute that bowlers are playing into their hands.

When Maxwell has arrived, opposing seamers have discarded a good length and persistently opted for panicked variations. Spinners, many of whom triumphed in the recent ICC World Twenty20, have almost immediately ceased flighting and turning the ball when pitted against the Australian and South African stars. 

It may sound absurd and almost elementary, but the men sending down deliveries to Maxwell and Miller have become so disoriented in their haste to limit the pair's scoring that they've forgotten to try and thoughtfully dismiss them. A total of 744 runs have already been clattered by the two, yet there's scarcely been a single threatening delivery among the combined 394 balls they've faced.

DHAKA, BANGLADESH - MARCH 23:  Glenn Maxwell of Australia hits a boundary during the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 match between Australia and Pakistan at Sher-e-Bangla Mirpur Stadium on March 23, 2014 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/G
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

In short, bowlers have frenetically forgotten to produce wicket-taking deliveries against the pair. Thus, Maxwell and Miller have operated without the genuine threat of being dismissed, knowing only they themselves can cause their own demise.

For a glaring example, one needs only to revisit Ravichandran Ashwin's encounter with Maxwell on Wednesday.

The finger-spinner arrived at the contest with a superb tournament record, which backed up his sublime showing at the World T20 in Bangladesh. However, the second he was faced with the blistering Australian, all thoughts of claiming his wicket seemingly vanished.

Instead, Ashwin retreated, firing flat and fast deliveries at the batsman's pads from around the wicket. Sound threatening? Sound at all like the tweaker's wonderfully flighted and spinning deliveries that have claimed the wickets of countless batsmen of a better standard than Maxwell? Of course not. The 25-year-old duly put the vast majority of them over the fence for good measure.

A worrying similar theme engulfed Miller's annihilation of Bangalore on Friday. 

On this occasion, the impressive Yuzvendra Chahal had claimed Maxwell's wicket for a relatively cheap 25. Indeed, the audacious 23-year-old had done so by intuitively and aggressively chasing the Australian's wicket, rather than merely trying to quell his expected explosion.

Disappointingly, his teammates did little to follow his example.

As Miller stood in front of them, Virat Kohli's seaming trio of Mitchell Starc, Harshal Patel and Varun Aaron served up a forgettable dose of slower balls, half-volleys, full tosses and half-trackers. Just back of a length in the channel outside off-stump isn't in vogue, it would seem.

Of course, it would be foolish to overlook the breathtaking magnitude of what is being achieved by the Kings XI pair. It would also be amiss to suggest that an alternative approach—namely one that prioritises capturing the duo's wickets at all costs—doesn't come without its own inherent problems.

Yet  it's difficult to fathom the apparent absence of definitive plans for the dynamic batsmen. When watching on, it's nigh-on impossible to interpret how the opposing side is trying to orchestrate the duo's demise. A paralytic fear seems to grip the minds of Punjab's opponents.

It must be remembered that cricket's history is littered with such players, men who had won the psychological battle before the physical one had even commenced. The names of Richards and Warne perhaps best encapsulate the height of cricket's mental warfare. 

But in Maxwell and Miller, we're not dealing with two greats of the game—just two men carrying exorbitant price tags excelling in blingy clothes with a raft of sponsors on their chests.

Really, it's not all that different. In fact, it's the same game.

Wickets halt scoring in the sport's other formats. It's not too much of a stretch to believe they can do the same in the ongoing IPL.