As a strong player of spin and a batsman capable of changing a game's momentum, Glenn Maxwell should have been chosen for Australia's UAE tour in the absence of the banned Steven Smith and David Warner, according to former selector Mark Waugh.
As Australia were drifting towards defeat against Pakistan in the first Test in Dubai after a horrendous first-innings collapse in which all ten wickets fell for 60 to the spin of Bilal Asif and the medium pace of Mohammad Abbas, Maxwell was part of the Victoria team that won the domestic limited-overs tournament with a comfortable win over Tasmania at the Junction Oval in Melbourne.
Waugh, who resigned as a selector earlier this year to commentate full-time for Cricket Australia's new host broadcaster Fox Sports, stated ahead of the fourth day of the Test that he would have picked Maxwell to better combat Pakistan's bowlers in the sorts of conditions in which the allrounder made his only Test century - against India in Ranchi last year.
"It's tough because we've lost our two best batsmen, haven't we? And three counting [Cameron] Bancroft, so there's only a certain pool of players that are good enough to play Test cricket," Waugh said when assessing Australia's batting stocks. "It's not the time to panic, I don't think there are many players there that would make a big difference - the only player I would have picked is Glenn Maxwell, that's not there.
"I think he's a guy with ability, can change the game, he's a good player of spin, he can actually take the attack to the bowling side. So that's the only guy I would have that's not there, and maybe you can bring back Matt Renshaw for the second Test. But all the other guys? That's about the best we've got at the moment."
Maxwell and his fellow Victorian Peter Handscomb were two curious omissions from the Test squad, the latter after struggling for runs on the Australia A tour of India as he underwent a process of technical changes with the help of the batting coach Chris Rogers. Maxwell, however, was denied the opportunity to play on that tour, having been left with the impression he was going to be picked for the Test side. As a result, he knocked back offers to play in England also.
"I had a few offers to play county cricket in England and they were initially knocked back with an opportunity to go and play in India in the A series," Maxwell told SEN Radio last month. "To get told not to play in the A series and have a rest, and I was understanding of that and their reasoning behind that... I was hoping that was a positive note to go to Dubai [to play Pakistan]. But obviously that wasn't the case."
Posed the question of whether or not he had been misled by the selectors in terms of their plans for him this year, Maxwell said, "Maybe a little bit. I feel like there were other guys who were able to get a full off-season of cricket into them and hit the A series up and running or be able to put their names forward."
Running his eye over Australia's flurry of wickets on day three, Waugh said the rush of dismissals indicated a lack of close attention to the spinning or reverse-swinging ball. "To me, they're not watching the ball closely enough. They're thinking about other things, they're not focusing on that delivery. Abbas is a good bowler, but he should not get 4 for 29 bowling at that pace," Waugh said. "If it's Waqar Younis or Brett Lee, okay... 4 for 29 is acceptable. But not a medium-fast bowler."