How Ponting can solve the riddle of Maxwell’s stop-go career
CRICKET: A week ago Ricky Ponting declared he was the man to unlock Australian cricket's brilliant but most unfulfilled talent - Glenn Maxwell.
Seven days in, and Ponting should be receiving an A+ on his first report card having passed the Maxwell test with flying colours.
Ponting has taken the next step in his integration to the Australian coaching set up with a seamless transition as an assistant in the ongoing Twenty20 Tri Series.
The image of Ponting sitting dutifully alongside head coach Darren Lehmann as Australia set about its successful chase at Bellerive on Wednesday, feverishly scribbling notes on a pad, showed a man who is every bit a coach in waiting.
Justin Langer is the overwhelming favourite to take over from Lehmann when he steps down after next year's Ashes contest, and rightly so following the former Australian opener's supreme work in developing a culture of success at West Australia and the Perth Scorchers.
But Ponting is looming quickly as a rival candidate with growing support.
Luring Ponting into the coaching ranks has been a pipedream at Cricket Australia for years, with Australia's greatest run-scorer reluctant to dive into the clipboard game while he juggles a young family and business interests.
But he's on board now, if only tentatively, at first, and having taken a personal interest in Maxwell's development the Australian public has been given its first insight into how valuable Ponting can be.
"(Ponting has) been outstanding," said Maxwell on Thursday, following his matchwinning, unbeaten 103 against England in Hobart.
"We've obviously been doing a little bit of work off the field even just with my preparation which has been pretty consistent over the last couple of games."
Ponting has long been a strident supporter of Maxwell, even before he outlaid $1.7 million to recruit him to the Delhi Daredevils at last months' Indian Premier League auction.
He publicly backed the talented all-rounder in the wake of Australian captain Steve Smith's "train smarter" comments following Maxwell's axing from the one-day squad.
And last week he declared he was the man to solve the Maxwell riddle.
"That was the main reason I went as hard for him as I did (in the IPL auction)," Ponting said last week.
"I've been pretty close to Maxi for a few years and I think I know how to get the best out of him. I've already had a chat to him about what my expectations are of him by the time we get to Delhi.
"I think he's already turned a bit of a corner himself anyway to be honest. I think there's a lot of positive signs for him. He knows I've got his back, but he also knows what my expectations are of him through the next few months."
Earlier in January, Ponting urged selectors to go back on their decision and recall Maxwell to the ODI squad following the injury withdrawal of Chris Lynn.
"So as long as he's learnt his lesson and listened to what those people have had to say, absolutely I think he can go back to international cricket and dominate," Ponting said.
And so he has, spearheading two successful chases, with unbeaten scores of 40 and 103, to give Australia's T20 team a 2-0 start to the Tri Series.
"Just having little chats with (Ponting) as well. I've made it pretty public that he's one of my childhood idols and to have him on my side, in my corner and backing me is awesome," Maxwell said.
Maxwell opened up on his personal chat with Smith in the wake of the "train smarter" commentary, saying the Australian skipper had clarified his comments.
He hadn't been talking about Sheffield Shield preparation, nor T20s, it was purely down to how he was preparing for one-day cricket.
With the air cleared, and Ponting in his corner, Maxwell is now firing on all cylinders and producing the sort of matchwinning knocks which the Australian selectors crave.
The challenge now for Ponting, and Maxwell, is to not only keep that going, but to extend that success and production into all three formats: and if they can succeed, Australian cricket will be better for it.