I was, with all my heart, supporting Afghanistan in this game.
Quite a few reasons for that. Afghanistan was a definite underdog in this contest. Also, who doesn't like to see the Aussies lose in cricket, that too to a team that is just starting to make a name for itself?
Also, winning this game would really boost Afghanistan's chances to qualify for the knockout stage, with them having 5 wins and 3 losses, and Pakistan and New Zealand both having 4 wins and 4 losses. To have a cricket team from a broken country that has won only one World Cup match before this World Cup (against Scotland in 2015), qualifying for the semi-finals, would have been quite a fairy tale.
But as always, Australia was crowned the victor. Only this time, it was the work of one man who, after a point, was playing the game without any legs!
At 91-7, the win probabilities for Afghanistan and Australia were 96 percent and 4 percent respectively. Had I been even a little less vella, I'd have shut my laptop and gone about some work.
I am so glad that I didn't.
What I watched was perhaps one of the greatest, if not the greatest ODI innings of all time.
How in God's Name Did He Do That?
Bowling and fielding in Mumbai's sweltering heat all afternoon (it was reportedly around 37 degrees Celsius), and then batting after that, took such a serious toll on Maxwell's body that after a point, the Australian team's physio had to regularly keep rushing out to treat him.
Sure, he reached a century comfortably, smacking Noor, Mujeeb, and Nabi in all directions, like those beautiful front-foot lofted sixes over the bowlers' heads.
In the 38th over, Maxwell was clearly struggling to run between the wickets. This is when Australia was at 211-7, still needing 81 runs from 13 overs, at a required run rate of more than 6 an over. He was down on his knees in between the over.
Commentators had started to say that Cummins, on the other crease, will have to take a bit more responsibility. After the end of the 38th over, the physio came on for the first round of treatment.
Maxwell's discomfort was even more evident in the very next over, when he, on 126, smacked Rashid for 6 over mid-on and started hopping on one leg right after. After that, his muscles appeared to keep cramping and spasming. His physical condition was clear when on 142, he hit a boundary off Noor and limped towards the other end of the pitch.
When he was on 147, he fell to the ground, his body writhing. At this point, Australia still needed 55 runs from 58 balls.
Even the umpire tried to help him, that's how much pain he was in. Adam Zampa had walked halfway across the dressing room and was waiting at the boundary rope, but Maxwell was told by the physio that if he subbed out now, he wouldn't be able to get back in the game.
And Then Began the Motionless Slaughter
We have all heard the same thing about good batting, that it requires good footwork. ABSOLUTE NONSENSE.
The guy stood stationary and just moved his wrists and arms to hit Afghanistan's bowlers all over the park. He refused to take singles, mostly because he could barely walk, but also probably because even a little bit of movement would deteriorate his condition, and he would be forced to retire hurt.
For one shot, he became left-handed. For other shots, he just slashed his bat like a sword. He started hitting two or three boundaries every over as the game started slipping away from Afghanistan's grasp.
That is how Maxwell finished the game in the 47th over.
The last ball of the game by Mujeeb was on the pads, and Maxwell just stood firm to slog sweep it over deep mid-wicket, reaching his double century (of 128 balls), concluding the most extraordinary innings I have ever seen on TV.
The only one that comes close was Ben Stokes' 135 at Headingley, in which he hit Pat Cummins for 4 to end a crazy test match.
My father would often tell me that Kapil Dev's 175 against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup was the greatest ODI innings that had ever been played. Last night, he merely texted, "The maximan storm."
Amid all this, a word for Pat Cummins, Australia's captain, whose 12 of 68 was reminiscent of Jack Leach's 1 of 17 during Stokes' aforementioned innings. The strike rate doesn't tell the story, the number of balls faced does.
Cummins held on, as Maxwell feasted.
My heart still bleeds for Afghanistan. But I feel lucky to have watched every ball of what was definitely the greatest ODI innings since Kapil's 175. This is the innings that 30 years down the line will be remembered as, "Hey, remember that innings from that World Cup that happened in India?"
Indeed, in the post-match interview, Cummins said, "It has got to be the greatest thing that has ever happened. One of those days people will say yeah, I was at the stadium for this game."
Mad Max, this is your World Cup.