Greatest ODI Finisher of All Time!
I had planned to write the article after Dhoni retires. But I can't bear the waiting any longer. Mirror mirror on the wall. Who is the greatest finisher of them all? Well, all that apart, the only real contestants being called the greatest one-day cricket finishers of all time are Greatest ODI Finisher of All Time! Bevan or MSD: and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Nope does not make the mistake of comparing them as cricketers because Dhoni with his versatility will win hands down. Just compare them as ODI finishers. That's what I am out to do today. I came up with some interesting facts and stats while doing so.
Let's first list some candidates"SPORTSBOOK" who deserve although not in the same league as these two specialists. Some of them are Lance Kluesner, Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, Mike Hussey, AB De Villiers, and VIA Richards arguably the greatest one-day batsman of all time. He and Sachin will say no we do not need a finisher. We can finish the match a long time before the overs are completed with available resources at the other end. But that is another story and another breed of batsmen.
By finisher do we mean a batsman who remains not out at the end when an inning is over? Nope. I mean the batsman who finished the match and won it for his team is the greatest finisher. In most cases, such an inning will result in the batsman remaining not out at the end. But there are many an innings in which the batsman had pretty much finished it before getting out.
Sachin Tendulkar at Sharjah in 1998 against Australia played two magical century innings, one to propel India into the finals and the second to win the final for India. He got out in both the innings. But it was finishing of the highest order and did the job for his country very effectively indeed. And this is where Bevan and Dhoni come into the picture. They made a real difference when it mattered most to their teams. And they did it many times. This fact alone leaves clear daylight between them and the others.
The best qualities of MS Dhoni is that he is calm about everything when everyone in the stadium and watching the match on TV is about to have a heart attack. This was pretty much the case with Michael Bevan as well. But Bevan had solid batsmen keeping him company during his time such as Waugh brothers, Damien Martyn, etc. Dhoni also benefitted from these batsmen at the other end but more towards the end of his career.
They were both outstanding runners between wickets. More than that, they were excellent judges of runs. They knew when to convert a single into two and a two into three, and also when to not take the risk. This increased the pressure on the opposition a great deal. Not only the boundaries kept coming but the running between wickets killed the match for the opposition.
One area where Dhoni stands out is big hitting. He can hit sixes and Bevan, on the other hand, was not a big hitter. He could hit out if required but not with the same consistency as Dhoni. That to my mind is the real difference between the two. Bevan has won as many matches for his team as Dhoni did but with caresses and pushes rather than the controlled hitting of Dhoni. A finisher needs temperament and they both had it. I am saying "were" though Dhoni is still around. But I believe we have seen his best.
Most Indians will point at career strike rate to tilt the balance in Dhoni's favor but Bevan played in a slightly different era where the batsmen did not score at the same rate as today apart from the Tendulkars, Waughs, and Laras obviously. And the teams also did not amass the same totals as today.
So this statistic does not do justice to Bevan. They both have great batting averages in the excess of 50s. They absolutely killed the opposition with exquisite finishing. No matter how they did it, by running around or hitting out, it was clinical.
Dhoni finishing is about his ability to do both: big-hitting and nudges and pushes and runs like a hare. Also, Dhoni played in an era when there was a lot of cricket played and he had to perform multiple roles in T20s, ODIs, Tests and IPL. This alone is backbreaking. While Bevan played ODI cricket basically along with the first-class matches and a little bit of test match cricket.
Less stress definitely than compared to modern cricketers like Dhoni. Maintaining fitness in such cases is very difficult. Dhoni has managed this but Bevan struggled towards the end of his career with a series of fitness problems.
Most mortal cricketers in this world panic when the difference between the numbers of balls left and runs to get starts to get out of hand but not these two. It was just unbelievable to watch them keeping their calm and going about their job as if it was everyday chores. What these guys are made up of can be seen with finishing no one else can repeat so many times.
Many great cricketers have graced the game and a lot of them have played stellar roles in their teams winning. But finishing the matches victoriously for their teams so many times? No. No one! These two just cannot be beaten at that.
Bevan;Bevan was a part of two world cup winning squads in 1999 and 2003. It is noteworthy that Australia was at the top of their game when he was playing ODI cricket and was in his prime. Dhoni won the single ODI WC victory for India in 2011 although he is still playing and I am sure is eyeing the 2019 world cup as his last hurrah.
Bevan has the highest batting average for a retired ODI cricketer of 53.58 while Dhoni averages 51.37 at the moment and will end up around 50. This also doesn't indicate any clear advantage for Bevan because Dhoni would take more risks and as a result, would have a better strike rate than Bevan who will have a slightly better average. Both of them played and won matches playing with tail-enders and many times.
I cannot describe in words how unbelievable it was to watch these men do it over and over again.
Another critical point that goes against Dhoni is the pitches he played on. Bevan played on large Australian grounds which make hitting sixes difficult while Dhoni batted at a time when the game was tailor-made for batsmen and on Indian conditions which have always been friendly to batsmen.
Though Bevan comes from an all Aussie domination era where the team was on a roll, Dhoni busted the Indian habit of being poor chasers. That is his greatest achievement really for his country. It is no mean achievement, allow me to tell you, as I have seen Indian cricket since the 1980s and this had become a minor crisis back then.