Vantage point

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Generation Fed on Bevan

I will not join the optimistic rally and pronounce that the Indian ODI team is back in gear. At least not yet. Yes, the Indian team has shown hunger never seen before in finishing off a 7 match series in the 4th match. What's more, the 3rd and 4th matches were actually won from challenging positions. However it is too soon to blow our trumpets yet. Such form should be maintained consistently, for at least a season, against different oppositions. Only then can we truly claim to have turned the cliched corner.

This post is to acknowledge the contribution to world cricket, of a certain Michael Bevan. The contribution which will be apparent more in countries such as India and Pakistan where the sport is not run very professionally. The contribution which will be fully evident only when it stops being noticed, because Bevanesque cricket will become the norm rather than the exception.

Over the past few years, players trickling into the Indian team are from the same generation as me. Guys who idolised cricketers from the 90s. And if there was one man who can be called Mr.ODI of the 90s, it is Michael Bevan. His success was symbolic of the evolution of one-day cricket as a separate entity from test cricket. It was Michael Bevan who showed that the ideal one day cricketer should be a great athlete and a great street-fighter. Diving saves and direct hits while fielding....sure, Jonty Rhodes was the poster-child of that sub-trade but Bevan was a huge franchisee too. Playing the ball with soft hands and stealing a single. Converting 1s into 2s and 2s into 3s. Meeting an asking rate of 8 runs an over without hitting too many boundaries. All these "tricks" made Bevan an ODI magician. Ask anyone who watched cricket in the 90s and he can tell you of dozens...literally dozens of occasions when Bevan came in with Australia in trouble, and he marshalled an impossible looking chase with just his nudges and aggressive running. And the guy refused to get out! No wonder that his average in ODIs is somewhat Bradman-esque.

In the past few matches, it is evident that the Indian team now has more and more players who grew up idolising Bevan. Until recently it was only Yuvraj, Kaif, Harbhajan and Pathan. But now more and more "children of the 90s" have started dominating the scene. We see Raina hitting the stumps with amazing regularity. We see bowlers like Sreesanth and R P Singh slide and dive to save runs with the natural agility of someone who has grown up doing it. In Pune we saw Dhoni, a butcher, slip effortlessly into the role of a sushi chef, deftly slicing the Lankan fightback with 1s and 2s, and yet maintaining the run rate.

Whether Team India will continue this winning habit remains to be seen. But I am positive that good fielders, runners and 'nudgers' will now be a rule rather than an exception. This truly looks like a generation fed on Bevan.