'You can't play cricket bitter, you stop concentrating' - Glenn Maxwell
Glenn Maxwell was, though briefly, an occupant of the Australian dressing room during the Ashes. On day three of the pivotal Old Trafford bout, Maxwell and his Lancashire team-mate James Faulkner made their way into the rooms and on to the balcony to watch some of Australia's first innings bowling at England, which helped set up the victory to retain the urn.
How did Maxwell feel, sitting and watching the team he may well have been a part of if granted an opportunity during the 12 months Steven Smith and David Warner were banned? "Weird," Maxwell told ESPNcricinfo. "I was at the Test. Myself and James Faulkner were sitting there watching the boys go about it, might've been day three, before we had a game on.
"The boys finally looked up and waved to us up there. That was pretty weird, that was weird. We tried to give them as much support as we could while we were over there [in England], Jimmy and I were calling up the boys whenever they were around and trying to stay connected and making sure they knew they had our support as much as possible."I haven't even sought out clarity or anything about Test stuff. I'm not overly too worried about it because I know I'm probably not next in line, so what's the point in thinking about it right now?
Maxwell isn't thinking about Test selection
What's striking about Maxwell is that, despite all the misadventures of the preceding year, he has tried very much to avoid looking upon his peripheral view of the Ashes as anything other than a great ringside seat to the action. Carrying any lingering resentment about opportunities missed or selectors not smiling on him at the times he preferred is not something Maxwell thinks will be helpful to his chances of succeeding in any format this summer. Going out there with something to prove does not work for him.
"With whatever team they picked, we just had to give them as much support as possible. I didn't want to feel salty or anything like that," Maxwell said. "I just wanted to move on and concentrate on what I need to. You can't play cricket bitter, it detracts from yourself and makes you stop concentrating on what you need to do. I couldn't be happier with the guys they picked, they all played so hard and it was so good to watch, even on TV. I loved watching it and they did such a great job bringing home the Ashes."
When the Australians celebrated wildly in Manchester at the end of the Test, Maxwell was having an early night to prepare to train for a Division Two county match beginning two days later, also at Old Trafford. Lancashire secured an innings victory comfortably enough, but Maxwell's steep task ahead to return to Test calculations was underlined by how his innings was as brief as possible. He was bowled for a duck by Ravi Rampaul, and he averaged just 19.20 in four games for the county. A middling start to the Sheffield Shield for Victoria has left him well back in the queue.
"I haven't even sought out clarity or anything about Test stuff," he said. "I'm not overly too worried about it because I know I'm probably not next in line, so what's the point in thinking about it right now? I've got to be making big hundreds, big scores. And until I even start making some of them there's no real point in me asking. If you average 30 for the season, there's no point in asking 'when am I going to play Test cricket for Australia'.
"I know I've got to go out there and make a bunch of runs somewhere, so hopefully I get an opportunity after these T20s and the four-day stuff before the Big Bash and who knows. At the end of the season, I might be on top of the run-scoring list and then I might be able to have those conversations. But I know there's still a fair bit of work to do for me to get back in that Test side. It's not something I'm losing sleep over at the moment."I didn't want to feel salty. I just wanted to move on and concentrate on what I need to. You can't play cricket bitter, it detracts from yourself and makes you stop concentrating on what you need to do.
Maxwell on the Ashes snub
Instead, Maxwell has T20 as his focus, namely Australia's 12 months to prepare for hosting and ideally winning a first global tournament in the short format. Maxwell believes the past week has felt very much like the beginning of a fresh campaign, with much greater direction than ever before. He reckons that the corner was actually turned some time ago - a theory backed up by Australia's' improving results since the 2016 World Cup in India.
"For the last 18 months to two years I feel like we've probably turned a corner and results have massively improved," Maxwell said. "I think that's reflected in the way we've actually started looking at T20 cricket. We've starting looking at 'alright, let's start, instead of picking our one-day side and turning it straight into our T20 side, let's pick more specialists for this', which is I think giving guys specialist roles as well, not just roll out the same batting line up or whatever.
"Now we've actually got specialist roles for T20, which is nice, and I think with that change and mindset, results have changed a little bit for us. I think especially guys nutting out their roles and knowing where they fit into the side is a massive thing. Even simple things like fielding positions and where you run to in the field in between overs. When you get that right, it can all just look like clockwork and everyone knows what they're doing."
"All of a sudden, you've just got extra time up your sleeve, [captain Aaron] Finchy can relax a little bit at the back end, know guys are in the right spot and not have to stress about anything. The more you play with these guys and the more you're moulding around each other, it can just become a little simpler for each other."
As a close friend of Finch for many years, Maxwell has watched his state and national team-mate wrestle with numerous battles up close - from his removal as T20I captain in 2016 to a run of poor batting returns early this year that brought calls for his replacement as ODI leader. "He probably had an interesting lead-in to the ODI World Cup where there was a lot of heat coming from back home," Maxwell said. "He responded as only Finchy does, by peeling off hundreds, and smacking bowling attacks all over the place.
"He came out and did really well for us in the World Cup and led really well. That helped him so much to be able to get through that, perform, well, come home, score 180 for Victoria in the Marsh Cup and he's just getting better with age. He's found I think the right level of peace and everything seems to be clicking at the right time for him now and hopefully that leads to more exciting results for him and Australia, because an up and about Aaron Finch going well is pretty scary for any opposition."
And as a far more central participant in Australia's T20I side, Maxwell has a piece of advice for a team that includes no fewer than six squad members with either formal leadership roles in the team or a wealth of past captaincy experiences - let Finch run the team his way. "You've got to be careful I think, especially with this format, you don't want to have too many voices coming at the captain," he said. "Because there's so little time as well, you don't want three or four guys going to him at different times with different ideas. You've got to let him have his time to think, talk to the bowler and leave them to it. If he comes to you at a break or at a wicket, you answer him, give him honest whatever, let him deal with it, but only if he asks you.
"You're there to help him if he's ever stuck, but you know he's probably getting a couple of voices from somewhere else as well. I'm generally fielding on the fence for most of that, so you don't really want to come out of nowhere when you know he's probably had a couple of other guys already come to him. It's about giving him that space."