India vs Australia: Why Michael Bevan would be the perfect man to help Steve Smith and Co arrest their batting woes

Australia's middle order have failed to step up and finish out games. So, what better way to arrest this batting decline than by hiring arguably the greatest finisher in Michael Bevan?

Prahlad Srihari, Sep 26, 2017 14:28:04 IST

Steve Smith is currently a man trapped in a nightmarish deja vu. Each time he leads the Australian ODI team onto the field, he's overwrought by an escalating sense of foreboding. He is doomed to relive the shocking ordeal of watching his timid batsmen collapse like a house of cards while his brittle bowlers continue to break down as frequently as Israel-Palestine peace talks.

"We need to stop," says the World No 1 Test batsman, stuck in a frightening case of Groundhog Day and hoping for deliverance.

Steve Smith is trapped in a frightening case of Groundhog Day. But is deliverance coming? Image courtesy: Twitter @CricketAus

Steve Smith seems to be stuck in an endless time loop. But is deliverance coming? Image courtesy: Twitter @CricketAus

On Sunday, Aaron Finch's masterful eighth ODI hundred was not enough to avert more Australian humiliation as Virat Kohli's Indians took an unassailable 3-0 series lead.

It was Australia's third straight ODI series defeat overseas.

Thankfully, for Smith and co, there is salvation in the form of one-day cricket's original finisher, Michael Bevan.

A man, who spent years bailing Australia out of the most grim and hopeless predicaments, wishes to come to Australia's rescue yet again.

The ice-cool left-hander took to Twitter to ask Cricket Australia (CA) if they needed someone to help Smith's men out of their current batting calamities.

Since losing half-a-dozen quality ODI cricketers in the post-2015 World Cup exodus, either to retirements or CA's whims, Australia have struggled in the limited overs.

In what is easily Australia's best and most dominant format, Smith and co are on a streak of 11 losses from 13 overseas ODIs (the other two being no results) going back to last year's disastrous 0-5 whitewash against South Africa.

Take a look at Australia's batting debacles this year: 6-67 against New Zealand at Eden Park, 6-84 against New Zealand at Hamilton, 8-118 against England at Edgbaston (ICC Champions Trophy 2017), 8-109 against India at Chennai and 6-63 against India at Kolkata 5-51 against India at Indore.

In the ongoing series, Smith's men have found ways to lose games from strong positions by collapsing spectacularly. While chasing in the first two ODIs and setting up a total in the third, their dubious middle order have failed to step up and finish out games. So, what better way to arrest this batting decline than by hiring arguably the greatest finisher?

The subtle artistry of Pyjama Picasso

Michael Bevan, with help from Andy Bichel, helped Australia claw their way back from the jaws of defeat against England in 2003 ICC World Cup. AFP

Michael Bevan (R), with help from Andy Bichel (L), helped Australia claw their way back from the jaws of defeat against England in 2003 ICC World Cup. AFP

With an ODI batting average of nearly 54 batting in the lower-middle order, Bevan orchestrated some of Australia's greatest rescue and recovery efforts.

Aptly nicknamed "Pyjama Picasso" by Steve Waugh, he possessed a masterful ability to win critical games for Australia with the most delicate strokes and soft pushes.

Devoid of the ability to smash sixes with ease like MS Dhoni or AB de Villiers, he ran aggressively between the wickets like his life depended on it. Bevan struck a mere 21 sixes and 450 fours in 232 ODIs, compared to Dhoni’s tally of 212 sixes and 746 fours in 304 games and de Villiers’ 194 sixes and 819 fours in 222 games.

But despite lacking the range of a modern limited overs finisher wielding Thor’s hammer, Bevan managed just fine.

On sluggish pitches, Glenn Maxwell, Travis Head and Marcus Stoinis among others will do well to learn the subtle art of nudging the ball gently enough towards fielders in the deep so ones can be turned into twos. It's virtually risk-free and a far safer option than trying to hit it out of the park.

Asking rate be damned!

It didn't matter if the likes of Mark Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn or Steve Waugh failed. Nor did it matter if the asking rate continued to climb. It was in these trying circumstances that Bevan thrived.

The pulleys, gears and levers of his mathematical brain whirring at top speed, Bevan could easily blank out the score and focus all of his attention on the required equation: How many runs do I need and how many balls do I have?

Then he'd begin to slowly accumulate runs, one by one and two by two with the odd boundary if possible, and drive the innings to its conclusion. The current Australian setup would surely benefit from learning how to choreograph a successful run chase given their present troubles.

Play the ball, not the bowler

Michael Bevan steered Australia out of trouble by blunting the best bowling attacks. AFP

Michael Bevan blunted the best bowling attacks to steer Australia out of trouble. AFP

Sir Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram, Allan Donald, Shane Bond, Andrew Flintoff, Daniel Vettori, Shaun Pollock, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh...regardless of who bowled, Bevan concentrated only on keeping his eye on the ball.

The unflinching left-hander was never intimidated by the opposition as he knew things would only get easier once he braved the storm. Bevan saw his side home in 25 of their 45 successful run-chases during his career.

There are not many better cricketers more well-equipped to coach an Australian side that is persistently flummoxed by modern cricket's premier spinners (from Sunil Narines to Kuldeep Yadavs) than 'the master of the end game'. And hey, Bevan was once a left-arm chinaman bowler himself. Perhaps, the Aussies can avoid succumbing to hat-tricks next time around.

Whatever happened to Aussie grit!

Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting were all believed to be the embodiments of true Australian grit. Bevan’s ODI exploits would not have been possible if the lower order hadn’t displayed a similar doggedness. It was seemingly contagious.

But it looks like this supposed all-Aussie quality has skipped a generation, considering the current Australian batters throw in the towel frequently in the face of adversity. Bevan will surely instill some much needed fortitude in Smith’s men.

The 47-year-old coached Kings XI Punjab in the fourth edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2011. He was signed as coach of Orissa during the 2011-12 Ranji Trophy season but had to withdraw within 10 months due to a family emergency. He was also involved with the Chennai Superstars in the Indian Cricket League (ICL) for three years.

Even former Australian captain Michael Clarke has given his vote of confidence.

CA certainly have an excellent candidate for ODI batting coach in Michael Bevan and they must look to avail his services post-haste.

Meanwhile, Smith gets two more opportunities to break out of his terrifying time loop in Bangalore on Thursday and Nagpur on Sunday.

Updated Date: Sep 26, 2017 14:59:08 IST


Pos. Team P W L D Pts.
9 7 2 0 14
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8 4 4 0 8
9 4 5 0 8
8 2 6 0 4
9 2 7 0 4
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