In a thrilling match that will be remembered as one of the greatest One Day International (ODI) innings in history, Glenn Maxwell showcased the power of the human spirit after enduring a grueling battle with mental health issues.
Maxwell displayed unwavering determination and resilience as he led Australia to a remarkable victory over Afghanistan with unbeaten 201, rescuing his team from a perilous position.
The Afghan team, known for its giant-killing performances in the tournament, had reduced Australia to a dismal 91/7 while chasing a challenging target of 292.
After defeating cricketing powerhouses like England, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, they had their sights set on another former World Champion. It seemed that only a formality remained to secure the win.
However, what unfolded on that fateful day was a game for the ages, as the hunter became the hunted, with Maxwell leading the charge despite being visibly in pain.
Maxwell’s incredible double century drew comparisons to Saeed Anwar’s epic 194 against India in the 1997 Independence Cup.
However, Maxwell faced a unique challenge as he didn’t have the luxury of requesting a runner due to the now-scrapped rule.
At 35 years old, he willed his battered body to scramble for singles, at times collapsing to the ground in agony but resolutely getting back on his feet.
He couldn’t bend his legs or stretch his body, but his hands were a blur of activity as he continued to find gaps and send the ball crashing to the boundary.
Reflecting on his performance, Maxwell remained humble, saying, “It would have been nice to say it was chanceless, but I led a charmed life, was dropped a few times. There have been occasions when I have been dropped and didn’t make the most of it, so to make the most of it is probably the most pleasing thing.”
For those aware of his past struggles, Maxwell’s ability to “make the most of it” is a massive understatement.
During the 2019 World Cup in England, Maxwell found himself in the hospital after being struck by a bouncer in the nets. His struggles with mental health issues had left him deeply frustrated, to the point where he even hoped the injury would be serious.
He later admitted, “I thought it would be my ticket out of disappointment.” Maxwell believed he was entirely to blame for his team’s underwhelming World Cup campaign and couldn’t help but feel like he let down his teammates.
In stark contrast to his mindset four years prior, Maxwell showed incredible determination during the Afghanistan match. He played unconventional shots like reverse-laps, switch-hits, and slog-sweeps with a body that could barely stand.
Early wickets had put Australia in a precarious position, and even Maxwell himself had doubts. He began walking towards the dressing room after taking a DRS against an LBW call, thinking the worst.
However, technology granted him a reprieve by revealing that the ball was bouncing over the stumps.
There was another stroke of luck when he was dropped by Mujeeb ur Rahman at short fine-leg. Maxwell’s smile reflected his relief, and it seemed to ignite his innings.
At that stage, the target appeared far out of reach, and physically, Maxwell looked drained. However, he showed no signs of stress or anxiety. His mental strength had come a long way.
Maxwell had previously opened up about his struggle with mental health issues in a podcast hosted by Neroli Meadows. During the last World Cup, he had experienced a meltdown and even considered himself unfit to take the field.
His journey to recovery included seeking the help of a sports psychiatrist, Ranjit Menon, who was an external consultant for Cricket Australia.
Menon emphasized the immense pressure athletes face in living up to their potential and how this can lead to feelings of missed opportunities and a sense of loss. Maxwell once mentioned, “Even when I was fielding, I would be off with the fairies.”
Maxwell’s transformation from a player barely able to get through the last World Cup to becoming Australia’s savior in the current tournament is nothing short of remarkable.
His performance in the match against Afghanistan not only brought victory to his team but also serves as a symbol of hope for those who battle their own mental health issues.
Maxwell’s journey from the depths of despair to the pinnacle of success is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. For the dressing room and Australian fans, the sentiment now is, “Thank God, Max has turned up for this tournament.”