With the second public dressing down from the top brass in 12 months, all Park Cricketers must be able to see the method in Maxi’s madness. Any Park Cricketer worth his salt knows that pushing yourself to be the best you can is for wide-eyed youngsters and fit guys who can afford to work part time. For the overwhelming majority it’s about hiding in the twos or threes and getting as many as you can without too much work at training.
Here’s how the great man does it:
This is fairly obvious but he’s really picked his moment to cop a public dressing down from his uptight coach and captain. Constantly ignoring the whatsapp chat to ‘get down to training’, Maxy shows up late, gets half a dozen throw downs from Finchy then punches a couple of darts with an open stance with a vest over a club t-shirt. Young bowlers will be cooling down with stretches while he chats about the kitchen he’s just ordered from China with the club chippy.
He’ll try to stifle a grin as the Ones' stern faced skipper gives the playing group a spray about commitment (to training) and break the ice by asking if the Number 8 bat for the fours is showing commitment to beers after training which Maxi most certainly is.
Maxy’s presence on Cricket Australia media has been prolific. He was all over their Playstation Game content and huge posters for the ODI series (hahaha). During the Melbourne Test he was in and out of radio boxes doing full exposes and an Instagram takeover. In the Park realm Maxy would have run the cones out, manned the bbq, entered the MyCricket stats for the skipper of the Twos and tidied the rooms with the Treasurer before locking up.
Doing the stuff the top grades stern faced coach and skipper will claim they can’t do because they’ve ‘got enough on their plate’ (making runs up the top and getting guys to training) will always make you a fave around the middle grades.
Now, I’ve written on this before but really, it didn’t do justice to the genius of Maxwell on getting himself into a grade he can dominate. Even Maxi will be unable to avoid a call up to the 1st XI when wedding season strikes (usually between Cup Day and Christmas) as he did in India when he was asked to bat at three. Rather than leave the fastidious opener trying to align his chakras pre-knock, Maxy will regale him with few stories from the IPL and state cricket end of season trips complete with Instagram uploads.
Gags throughout the team chat and a practical joke on the most humourless batsman will tip him into the ‘pest’ category.
This behaviour will not go unnoticed when selection comes around.
Let's face it. Maxy earns a tonne of cash. He’s got no excuse for not shouting a round of 4 buck tinnies.
He also a very big help to his seconds captain who is only doing the job because nobody else wants to. His cricket acumen will usually be accepted and acted upon with strong results from his bowling changes and setting fields.
His suggestions in top grade are flatly ignored by the stern faced skipper and then quietly mocked by vice-captain and the hanger on opener who’s only in because he fields under the bonnet when asked and laughs at the skipper's jokes about Kim Hughes.
Despite the outcries of some of the top-grade squad and a number of the twos who seek reward for effort, Maxi has fashioned a cricket scenario that suits him down to the ground.
He’ll eventually stop training all together and stroll up for a quick pre-match dart before opening the batting or in the middle order if he’s got the kids in the morning and will be running late.
After doing the thing the selectors told him to (make runs) he’s told to change his approach to training (something no park cricketer has ever done in the history of Park Cricket).
Given that nobody will be able to question his ability or capacity for results, he will choose to bow out on the most fastidious and elusive hurdle; perceived intention.
This ridiculousness means he can tell the stern faced skipper to get stuffed and ‘fill in’ when required. This means that he’s free of training but still in the group chat for the twos.
If he’s asked to play, he can now do it on his terms – when he wants and doesn’t have to bring a plate for tea…
Yes this is a parody but ultimately, Maxi is all of us. The guy that’s been overlooked despite producing results, the player that has shown up at training each week only to miss the finals, the player that’s done all they can to get better only to have a friend of a captain brought in to a side to fill in.
Moreover, he’s the office bon-vivant that gets made redundant in a run of cut-backs or the actor that misses the role.
Nobody would blame the Big Show for giving Cricket Australia the big one and going to make a squillion as a T20 mercenary. This would be a crying shame for the cricket fans amongst us desperate for him to get a decent go.
He’s a human that doesn’t fit the mould of the framework he’s working in. This is why his exclusion has been felt so publicly and met with indignant frustration so many of us have felt at a time where the injust becomes more normal.
*This article also appears in Footy Almanac and the author is ok with that