Brilliant Bevan

HATS off to Michael Bevan. The innings he played at Melbourne should rank among the classics, pulling off a victory against such heavy odds. Only men with a steely resolve and temperament can achieve such distinctions and I know Bevan is one of the toughest batsmen you can encounter on the circuit.

What is it that separates batsmen like Bevan from the rest? The most important thing is that you should have the basic talent. But then it is also important that you should put it to optimum use, and that can come only if you have the right grooming.

Bevan proudly reflects the advantages of a cricketer rising through the ranks. There is a lot of merit in the old talk of preparing a cricketer for the job. It is of utmost significance because there is a wide gap between domestic cricket and international cricket. It may not be true in the case of Australia because their domestic structure is something that must be an object of envy. But it is very true in the case of Indian cricket where the system is not producing matchwinners.

I must admit that watching a batsman like Bevan can be such a pleasure for the simple reason that he has a fantastic approach to the task. No pressure works on this left-hander who has played some incredible knocks in limited overs cricket.

If you look back at Bevan's career, the Aussie selectors backed him as a Test batsman, but soon they realised that he was an asset as a one-day cricketer. It has been a consistent policy in the case of Bevan that in the last few years he has been played only in limited overs cricket. His presence is such a comforting and motivating factor for the Australian team and often his efforts raise the level of the game.

Bevan may not be an exciting batsman like Mark Waugh or a blaster like Adam Gilchrist, but in his own way he is a matchwinner and that is what counts in contemporary cricket. How often can you win matches? More often if you have batsmen like Bevan in the side.

Bevan is a product of a system which encourages positive cricket. The emphasis is on winning and to achieve the goals the teams set themselves certain standards. The highly competitive structure of Australian cricket should serve as a model to other nations, especially India where the passion for cricket is amazing.

Talking of making winning a habit, an Indian cricketer is bred on placid tracks which do not encourage quality cricket. A domestic season in India is full of dull draws where the aim of the teams is to gain the first innings lead. Unless, of course, the contest is between mismatched teams. The system still has not changed despite recommendations from stalwarts like Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath.

That Indian cricket does not promote the winning habit is reflected in the performance of the national team. I am not saying that this is a new trend because India has been known to lose matches from winning positions even in the 70s and 80s. I have been part of matches which we could not win because the team lacked self-belief. It used to hurt losing to teams which were weaker, but then the situation has not changed. India is still losing matches which ought to have been won. As recent as the Cuttack match against England where the home team made basic mistakes to concede the contest.

If you review the domestic season, you would discover that when two strong teams meet, they often concentrate on just taking the first innings lead. To me it conveys a defensive attitude even though the respective coaches would argue that such tactics are in the interest of the team. Unless the youngsters get a feel of victory from the early stages of their careers how would they know the worth of such glorious moments?

There is nothing more thrilling in cricket than a victory. It does not help if I hit a grand century and the team loses. I would rather prefer a half century and enjoy the feeling of a win. I have had the privilege of seeing India record many great victories and the joy was doubled if some individuals went to great heights. But, ultimately, it is the team which matters and this feeling has to be inculcated at a very young age.

A cricketer has to be taught in the formative years that he has to produce that extra bit for the team to win. It cannot come from routine practice. It cannot come from spending time in the 'nets'. It has to be a concerted effort in the middle with every member chipping in. There is a lot of merit in the old saying that collective effort is the potion for achieving your goals. I strongly believe in it.

Australia is a very talented side, we all know. Bevan fits in nicely into the side with his positive attitude. He believes that everytime he steps on to the field he has to win the match for his side. There will be times when he would fail in his job, but then the effort is always honest and that is what any skipper looks forward to.

The Indian team management will have to identify players who can be moulded into matchwinners. They have to be given the right kind of backing and it is the right time to begin the exercise. Matchwinning efforts will have to be rewarded richly and not always in monetary terms. Recognition of a crucial innings or a spell can provide the right climate for others to emulate the feat.

Cricket, or for that matter any other sport, is all about winning. The Indians have long taken things easy and must change their attitude. There seems to be a refreshing aggression in their stride now and I am sure this season the team will discover new methods to translate its potential into victories. The kind which make cricketers like Bevan such a treat to watch.