PETER LALOR: Pat Cummins, Travis Head among IPL stars as Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc & David Warner struggle

Peter Lalor
The Nightly
7 Min Read
Peter Lalor rates the key Aussies doing battle in the IPL  and what their form means for the T20 World Cup.
Peter Lalor rates the key Aussies doing battle in the IPL and what their form means for the T20 World Cup. Credit: Getty Images

The kids are on IPL summer camp and the reports back are varied as are the concerns for what impact it will have when they return to the school side and front up for the T20 World Cup.

Some stars are rising, some fading. Some are hard to find.

Glenn Maxwell is in need of a group hug after giving up his place in the bottom placed Royal Challengers side, admirably telling captain Faf du Plessis that it is “probably time to try someone else”.

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God help Australia if he does not come good, but the mercurial 35-year-old is not in the best place.

His teammate Cameron Green presumably didn’t make the same selfless gesture, but also finds himself on the outer with the outfit who had invested $3.15m in the all rounder and have now axed him from the side. It’s a lot of money to pay someone for mixing the cordial.

Green finished last year’s IPL with a bang and a century and will need to do something similar if he is going to make the cut for the Caribbean. Getting picked again would be a start.

Mitchell Marsh, named captain of the Australian T20 World Cup squad last month, is out of the Delhi Capitals with injury, his hamstring strained and his form similarly stretched.

Delhi’s David Warner, who has one last contractual obligation with the Australian side at the tournament which is being hosted in the USA and West Indies in June, looks to have done some serious ligament damage to his hand. Word from the nets is he is struggling to hold the bat.

He’s had a middling tournament so far.

Marsh and Warner’s modest returns have not helped coach Ricky Ponting who will be feeling the heat if they don’t lift. The billionaires who own the IPL franchises are as fickle as any face-painting sports fan and quick to act.

It is, however, not all bad news for Australia or Delhi. One door opens and another closes. When Marsh went home another was summoned from the bench.

Jake Fraser-McGurk, whose precocious talents convinced the Australian selectors to give him a chance at white ball cricket this summer, grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Overlooked in the auction and then picked as a replacement for Lunghi Ngidi in the Delhi side, he smashed a 35 ball 55 which captured the attention of the international cricketing world.

There is, as Maxwell observed in a recent tweet, “no ceiling” to the talents of the player who turned 22 last week and who didn’t have a state contract 12 months ago.

Picked up by South Australia, Fraser-McGurk set off the fire alarms with 100 from 29 balls in a one day match against Tasmania in the summer.

In doing so he passed AB de Villiers whose 31 ball effort had been the fastest ever by a professional cricketer.

Jake Fraser-McGurk has proven he could be dark horse for Australia’s T20 World Cup squad.
Jake Fraser-McGurk has proven he could be dark horse for Australia’s T20 World Cup squad. Credit: NOAH SEELAM/AFP

Players of his talent are rare, rarer still the ones who can convert it to a prolonged career. He could be the next Maxwell, but Australian cricket must have its fingers crossed that he can go a step further and transfer those natural white ball talents to red ball cricket as Warner did before him.

And then there’s the golden boys Pat Cummins and Travis Head, both recently celebrated among the Wisden Almanac’s players of 2023 and both having a great time at the IPL.

It is fascinating to watch the love India has for Cummins. It is not new, but it has gone to new levels in 2024 for the blue-eyed captain of his country and the Sunrisers Hyderabad who have won their last three games straight.

Head scored a 39 balls century that has been celebrated across the subcontinent and Cummins added three wickets to his tournament tally in the outfit’s latest win.

Head won the Wisden Trophy for 163 against India in the World Test Championship finals. Cummins was named Wisden’s Leading Cricketer in the World (Men) this week. At home a punching bag for culture war warriors upset by his commitment to climate change, in India they are falling at his feet.

The deification of the Australian captain has gone to a new level in this tournament.

Kolkata Knight Riders' Mitchell Starc (L) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Delhi Capitals' David Warner (R) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Kolkata Knight Riders at the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy cricket stadium in Visakhapatnam on April 3, 2024. (Photo by Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE --
Mitchell Starc celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Delhi Capitals' David Warner. Credit: DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP

Warner would often say that fans in India love him more than those in Australia and it is true that the affection IPL fans have for The Bull is unconditional. When he was cut from Hyderabad, the franchise he’d led to championship victory, fans were outraged. Hundreds of thousands signed a petition for his recall.

The opener loves India as much as he loves them. His social media accounts are heavily focused on the market and borrow from Bollywood tropes. He currently features in a spectacular advertisement where he is seen playing heroic roles in a various popular Indian movies. He is fielding lucrative offers to appear in further commercials and films and could be making as much money there as he does in the IPL in future seasons.

Cummins is being similarly celebrated. After a recent performance one SRH fan posted a social media video where the bowler was being worshipped with votive candle in the manner of an Indian god.

The Aussie skipper gently trolled the locals this week during a Question and Answer session by telling them his favourite memory in India was beating India in last year’s World Cup and his favourite SRH team mate is his close friend and teammate, Head.

Warner, perhaps more conscious of who will be putting the ghee on his naan in years to come, had apologised to Indian fans for the World Cup victory over the home team.

The IPL is an emotional and financial washing machine for its participants who are exposed to T20 cricket at its highest level. In no other competition do they experience the weight of expectation from fans or franchise owners.

Mitchell Starc has failed to live up to his $4.3 million contract for the Kolkata Knights.
Mitchell Starc has failed to live up to his $4.3 million contract for the Kolkata Knights. Credit: DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP

Mitchell Starc - who also made the Wisden top cricketers list - found that out when he picked up just two wickets from his first 2-154 from his first four games. At that point he’d earned exactly $2m per wicket and it is a very cool individual who would not feel the pressure in that situation.

Thankfully for Starc the wickets have started to come with 3-29 against the Justin Langer coached Lucknow Super Giants on Sunday but overnight he was smashed for 50 runs off four overs without taking a wicket in the loss to the Rajasthan Royals.

Maxwell is, as we all know, wired differently. His best and his worst are a moment away, so too his highs and lows. Life and cricket is a roller coaster and hopefully maturity and family have helped him smooth that journey.

He had scored 32 runs from six innings before holding his hand up and asking for a breaK.

“After the first few games hadn’t gone to plan personally for me, it was a pretty easy decision,” Maxwell said.

“I went to Faf and the coaches last game and said it was time to probably try someone else. I have been in this situation before in the past, where you can keep playing and dig yourself into a hole. Now is actually the best time to give myself a mental and physical break.

“With our results this year, it was quite an easy decision. We haven’t been playing as well as we would have liked as a team, and the results show that. My personal results have reflected the results we have had. Pretty big deficiency straight after the Powerplay and the middle overs, which have been an area of strength of mine the last couple of seasons.

“I felt like I wasn’t contributing in a positive way and it felt like, with the position we find ourselves at the table, to give someone else the opportunity to try their wares and hopefully, someone can make the spot their own.”

Glenn Maxwell has withdrawn himself from the Royal Challengers due to his poor form.
Glenn Maxwell has withdrawn himself from the Royal Challengers due to his poor form. Credit: IDREES MOHAMMED/AFP

Not all problems are fixed by training harder or more often and Maxwell hopes he can get his game right before the end of the IPL.

“The management here has been outstanding,” Maxwell continued.

“We’ve been working together on taking a fair bit of ownership and the off-field leadership staff is trying to help out as much as they can. Unfortunately, runs just haven’t come the way they should have when you are in really good form.

“I don’t think I’ve had a better six months in cricket leading into this tournament. So it’s frustrating when it ends up like this. But if I can get my body and my mind right, there’s no reason I can’t finish the tournament well if I do get another opportunity.”

Hopefully for Australia he can get his mind and body right before their first game in the Caribbean in June.

If not, another star is rising. It would be a huge gamble to squeeze Fraser-McGurk into the World Cup squad but the iron is hot.

“Everything’s happened so quickly,” Fraser-McGurk said this week. “I haven’t really had the time to reflect on it. It’s been an amazing journey so far this year, but cricket is a funny game. It can go back and forth, but as long as I’m learning and making my opportunities count, I can’t see anything bad happening.”

There probably will not be a changing of the guard. Matt Short looks set to take the spot that Steve Smith wants but if Fraser-McGurk can string together a few more innings like his first in the IPL you never, never know.

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