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Will this be Glenn Maxwell's World Cup?

The first time Glenn Maxwell spent a summer in England, it almost cost him his Australia debut.

It was 2012, and after a glowing recommendation from former Australia batsman David Hussey, Hampshire had signed the then 22-year-old Victorian with the aim of playing him in the county's 2nd XI. Maxwell had played a handful of matches for his state, and thanks to his English-born father, he had a British passport and his plan was to play as a local to gain more experience.

There was just one hitch.

"I had to go in front of a judge and say that I had no intention of playing for Australia for another 12 months," recalls Maxwell, with a rueful chuckle. "And I was like 'Yeah, no worries, I'm not even close to Australian selection' and I had no problem with it. But the county was really good and said, 'No, we don't want to make that decision on your career so we'll give you as much 2nd XI cricket as we can and we'll sort you out with a club.'"

It was a fortuitous intervention: later that season Maxwell was 12th man at a Hampshire match when he discovered missed messages on his phone from Australia selector John Inverarity, who had called to inform him of his call-up for a T20I series against Pakistan in Dubai. He didn't believe it at first.

"I thought it was a joke because I'd only played a few games for Victoria at that stage and it took a while for it to really sink in," Maxwell says. "When I walked back into the rooms, I had a whisper to the coach [Giles White] and said, 'I've just been picked for Australia' and he got everyone in a huddle and told them, 'One of our players has just been picked to represent their country.' Everyone was sort of looking around and had no idea who it was going to be, and so they were pretty happy and excited for me when that was announced."

"I've been a role player, I suppose, in one-day cricket and had to do ugly things, which is fine"

Maxwell laughs often while relating the memory. We are sitting in the hotel that forms part of Hampshire's home ground, the setting for many happy memories from his first English season. The story illustrates two aspects of Maxwell's history: his sometimes naïve honesty, and the way the shape of his career has, at times, been determined by - arguably - surprising decisions by administrators.

The naïve honesty has cost him at times, most memorably at a press conference in 2016, when he expressed his frustration at batting below the Victoria captain, Matthew Wade, in a Sheffield Shield match, limiting his chances of pushing for Test selection. Maxwell was fined and publicly berated by Australia captain Steven Smith and the coach, Darren Lehmann.

Then there are the management decisions that have, on occasion, curtailed Maxwell's opportunities to play first-class cricket; in a ten-year professional career he has played just 62 first-class matches.

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At times it has seemed like Australian cricket just hasn't quite known what to do with him. There is no doubting his extravagant all-round talent - the outrageous shot-making ability, the lethal and feline way he prowls the point region as one of the game's best fielders, his useful contributions as a part-time offspinner. But in the past he has seemed a man apart, a laid-back and quirky personality, a maverick who seemed at odds with the hard-nosed, blokey-ocker stereotype that has traditionally populated Australian cricket. But in the wake of Australia's post-Newlands soul-searching on culture, Maxwell is a senior member of a new breed and he seems far more comfortable in the revamped regime.

"I think the setting has probably changed a little bit, in that guys are allowed to be more open and honest about their opinions and their points of view," Maxwell says. "Like, people don't always have the same points of view, but they're able to take them on board and digest them and come back with a counter and [we are] actually able to have a positive discussion. Everyone's learning, everyone's willing to learn, and the discussions around the game are getting better and better, and I think that's what I love about this new group - everyone's really open to each other, there's ideas on the game, and it's probably more of a collective buy-in."

It begs the question of how things were for a younger Maxwell when he expressed a view. He is carefully considered in his response, but it is revealing nonetheless.

"It was just a different time. We had a really strong older group of players who were excellent cricketers, had worlds of experience. If you were to speak up, it was the old-school sort of thing about speaking out of turn. But in saying that, your voice does get heard, and I have had some unbelievable cricket discussions with Boof and Michael Clarke and Steve Smith and Dave Warner and Finchy."

It could be argued that a player like Maxwell was ahead of his time for Australia. We are now in an era when unorthodox shot-making, even in Test cricket, has become commonplace, and the likes of Jos Buttler are given licence to attack and permission to fail. But even a few years ago, such aggression and innovation were out of step with conventional wisdom.

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"I think the Australian team probably looks for immediate success a little bit more," Maxwell says when asked if players such as Buttler were treated differently. "Or probably did. Whereas I suppose in the last 12 months we've probably been allowed a little bit more time to grow in our positions, or to work out your game where you're best suited, and what your best preparation is."

He admits he feels his career could have been managed differently at times. When there were opportunities to play red-ball cricket or push for selection in the Test side, the crowded scheduling of international white-ball matches, played at the margins of the Australian summer, prevented him from playing in the Sheffield Shield. The start of the 2014-15 season, after he had played all formats on a tour of the UAE, stands out.

"I think everybody else in the squad got the opportunity to rest for a week before the Shield. I was thrown back straight into a one-day series, and I was the only one out of the squad to go back and play in that series straightaway," Maxwell says. "I was playing three days after the flight, and I look back at that and think I probably could have been managed a bit better."

"I've always given people an excuse to leave my spot open for grabs, and that's just down to me not performing at the right time"

"I would have been able to play in two first-class games instead of being rushed back to play in another white-ball series. But I suppose they had their reasons, and yeah, I ended up missing a few more first-class games that year, and all of a sudden, the season is done."

He has also undoubtedly been misunderstood by the general public in the past. The "Big Show" moniker that was bestowed on him in early years by team-mates and the media was never encouraged or welcomed by him; it implied an arrogance and a wish for aggrandisation he desperately wished to avoid.

His reputation even distorts people's recollection of facts. Take, as an example, Maxwell's third Test for Australia, against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in 2014.

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"I was criticised for getting out reverse-sweeping [when] I got out defending," he recalls. "I got out charging down the wicket in the first innings. I tried to work one to midwicket and got bowled. The second innings I got out back foot, defending, and it clipped the top of my pad and got reviewed and I was lbw. People think I got out reverse-sweeping, which is an absolute joke!

"The message before that game was, 'We've picked you in this game to bat high, but we need you to win us this Test, so go out there and bat aggressive, take it to them, push the field back and try to take the pressure off the rest of the batters.' And I was like, 'Yep, I can do that.' I tried to do the role I was given and unfortunately that wasn't made public. So I just sort of wear the brunt of that, but that's fine.

"I've been a role player, I suppose, in one-day cricket, and had to do ugly things, which is fine, but I would have loved to bat higher and just been afforded the opportunity to bat the way I wanted to bat.

"[Now] Usman Khawaja reverse-sweeps his way to a hundred in Dubai and no one says a word, so obviously times have changed a little bit! It seems to be more well accepted now. Everyone's happy if it comes off. That's for sure: don't get out doing it."

It may seem bizarre that facts could be blurred so blatantly. Perhaps people who didn't watch the Test or merely skimmed the reports and social media somehow conflated the attacking shots with the mode of dismissal, but the myth followed Maxwell regardless. Several months later I interviewed him on the red carpet at the end-of-season awards night. When we finished, a photographer to my right asked for a picture. After Maxwell obliged, the snapper chirped, "Good luck, mate. Don't get out to any more of those stupid shots." Maxwell smiled tightly and moved on.

His rueful frustration shouldn't be construed as a sense of victimhood, however; he accepts that his own inconsistency has played a part in the way his career has developed.

"That's probably been my downfall over the years," Maxwell admits. "I've always given people an excuse to probably leave my spot open for grabs, and that's just down to me not performing at the right time or when I have been given those opportunities. I think more recently I've been able to be a bit more relaxed and I've gone into games and just trusted what I do well. You can put a lot of pressure on yourself when you feel like your spot is under pressure, and you stop actually thinking about cricket and you start thinking about things you can't control."

He still harbours hopes of playing more Tests for Australia - which seemed inevitable when he made his maiden Test century, in Ranchi during Australia's 2017 tour of India.

"Once I got that hundred, I just went, 'I've proved so many people wrong in what's traditionally the hardest place for an overseas batter to come', and it was like I've reached a childhood dream to score a Test hundred for my country. At that point it didn't really faze me. I was like, whatever happens from now, I've literally achieved so much in the game and this is as good as it gets.

"That's what I love about this new group - everyone's really open to each other, there's ideas on the game, and it's probably more of a collective buy-in"

"Obviously I definitely wanted to stay there and then play a hundred Tests, or as many as I could, and it just turned out that they decided to go in a different direction. I was upset about it, I was disappointed, but it's nothing you can really help. I gave everything I had. I trained as hard as I could and I changed a lot of things about myself, training-wise. Mentally, physically, I gave everything I had to Test cricket and I'd love to get another crack at some stage, but if I don't, I know I gave it everything I could."

***

As we conclude our interview, my mind flashes back to watching Maxwell bat against England in Perth, during the tri-series that led into the 2015 World Cup. My colleague George Dobell turned to me and remarked, "One day, Australia will actually realise just how good Glenn Maxwell is and how he can destroy oppositions. I fear for England when they do."

It has perhaps taken too long, but four years down the track and heading into another World Cup, Maxwell is both comfortable and appreciated in the Australian squad. But the main task still lies ahead.

"It's a pretty amazing experience to defend a World Cup title, and as a player who was there in 2015, I know how special that was."

"I'd love to get that opportunity to do it over here."