IPL 2020: Can Maxwell be the answer to KXIP’s middle-order mess?


Glenn Maxwell is back at the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) set-up once again. The Mohali-based franchise went hell-for-leather after the big Aussie all-rounder in the auction, despite eyebrows being raised last December as, at the time, Maxwell was just returning from a break due to mental health.

Moreover, post-2014, Maxwell hasn’t been the same in the IPL and only once has he scored more than 300 runs in a season. He had even skipped the 2019 season. But KXIP had made their intentions clear.

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Over the last couple of years, KXIP has started off magnificently in the IPL. But halfway through the tournament, they’ve just fallen off the cliff.

In 2018, they won five out of their first six games and just won one game in the last eight, finishing second from the bottom. In 2019, they won four out of their first six games but won just two games in the last eight, finishing sixth. For some reason, the 2014 finalists seem to run out of gas at the halfway mark and come crashing down.

One of the big reasons for KXIP’s downfall has been their middle-order batting, with their batting falling off after the top three. Punjab’s top three comprises of KL Rahul, Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal. While Agarwal has chipped in nicely, it is Rahul and Gayle who’ve done the most of the heavy lifting. In fact, the duo of Rahul and Gayle have combined to score more than 47% of the runs for KXIP in the last couple of seasons. In fact, their top three accounts for more than 60% of the runs, which is the third-most in the last couple of years.

Top-order and middle-order comparison of the batting average of teams in the last two IPL seasons.



Top-order and middle-order comparison of the batting strike-rates of teams in the last two IPL seasons.


Moreover, the difference in average between the top three and the middle-order is pretty big for KXIP. It’s again the third-highest after Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Rajasthan Royals (RR). KXIP’s top three have an average and strike-rate of 35.79 and 144.22 respectively since the start of the 2018 season. On the contrary, the middle-order (4-7) averages just 22.95 and strikes at 133.03.

Also, KXIP has tried as many as 16 players between positions 4 to 7 in the last two seasons of the IPL. And there was hardly anyone who stepped up. Only two players (Karun Nair and David Miller) have scored more than 200 runs in the middle-order for Punjab in this time period. And only four players have a strike-rate of more than 150 in the middle-order for them and out of those, only two of them have scored more than 100 runs (Nicholas Pooran and Ravichandran Ashwin).

KXIP players who have batted in positions 4 to 7 in the last two IPL seasons.

Now, you can see why KXIP went after Glenn Maxwell in the auction and why they wanted him so badly. The price tag of INR 10.75 crore might look a touch overrated for him but Punjab needed someone like Maxwell in that middle-order to carry on after Rahul and Gayle and give them that flourish at the end.

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You may think that what difference can one player make. It’s the entire middle-order that has faltered and hasn’t stood up. But the kind of player that Maxwell is, he can make a huge difference. Everybody knows that he can turn games on its head single-handedly and he is a runaway match-winner.

Just look at his numbers in the last couple of years. Maxwell has played 86 T20 games since the start of the year 2018 and has amassed 2260 runs at an average of 34.77 and a strike-rate of 149.17. Out of those, 1958 runs have come batting in positions 4 to 7, which is the fourth-most in those positions since 2018. Moreover, he averages 37.65 and strikes at 148.90 batting in the middle-order in the aforementioned period.

The numbers get even better since January 2019. The Victorian all-rounder has aggregated 1243 runs at an average of 41.43 and strikes at 152.70. Since the 2018-19 season of the Big Bash, Maxwell has played six series/tournaments and barring the recent T20I series against England, he averages in excess of 30 and strikes at more than 140 in each of them.

Kings XI Punjab

Maxwell’s last six T20 tournaments since the start of the 2018-19 BBL season.

Yes, Maxwell goes through phases where he looks silly and gets out playing a rash shot when the situation is tense or when the team is under pressure like he did in a couple of T20Is recently against England. But that’s what Maxwell is about. If he comes off, he will win you the game. He is that X-factor that everyone talks about.

What do you ideally want from your middle-order in T20 cricket? You need at least a couple of players who can turn game at any stage and win you games from any situation. That’s exactly what Maxwell can do. Apart from 2014 and to some degree 2017, Maxwell hasn’t really come to the party in the IPL.

But coincidentally he returns to the UAE where he has had quite a bit of success and had lit up the IPL six years ago. With KXIP top-heavy once again with Gayle and Rahul to bat at the top and Agarwal slotting in at 3, Maxwell’s role at No. 4 (or at max No. 5) will be huge.

He is in good form, and like he showed in the ODIs against England, that he is a different player now. The Victorian can absorb pressure and transfer it back on the opposition. Not only with the bat, with this being Rahul’s first year as IPL captain, but Maxwell might also play a big role in the leadership group as well. And as always, he is electric in the field and is the man with the golden arm when he bowls.

Thus, Maxwell’s role in an IPL team may not have been as big as it may be for this year.

If KXIP is to do well, Maxwell’s form needs to be good. If the ‘Big Show’ turns it on and wins them even a couple of games and keeps chipping in here and there, then KXIP might go on may well dominate this IPL.