I think T20 cricket is where ODI cricket was in the late 1980s and 1990s, says Michael Bevan
Madurai Super Giants coach Michael Bevan shared his thoughts on the inaugural edition of the TN Premier League (TNPL) on Friday. In an interaction, the ‘Original Finisher’ spoke on the role of a coach, his ‘successors’ in the ODI game and a lot more…
What prompted you to take up this role?
Well I didn’t play hard to get! First and foremost I guess I had the opportunity to come over and I had the time to come over. I’ve been coaching part-time in Sydney with one of the great clubs. And, so, the first and foremost thing is that I could do it. I haven’t coached in India for a couple of years; it’s always an enjoyable experience coaching in India. It’s a good challenge; these are probably the two main reasons why I coach and also the reason why I’m here.
What motivates you to come to India and coach these boys?
It’s a good question. For me, when I consider a coaching job, I think it provides me with opportunities and challenges. When you’re a coach, money is not the be all and end all of us. We try and enjoy everything we do. For me coaching is always, about getting results and outcomes and trying to help players. It’s a rewarding experience. I think players in India are extremely committed. As a coach, that makes things a lot easier because you spend a lot of your time just challenging these players. The Indian players always want to learn. They are extremely committed so it’s actually quite rewarding to be their coach.
What are your thoughts on TNPL’s and growth of cricket in towns and villages?
One of my observations in Twenty20 cricket is that it’s changed the nature of how players approach cricket. It’s has increased the number of people watching the game. The different formats are a good thing. Inherently, there’s nothing good or bad about it. If it’s well-managed and well-run, then it will provide players with lots of incentives and opportunities to be selected. Hopefully, these players will come across some good experienced captains and coaches that they wouldn’t come across in the normal set of circumstances. So, that could be beneficial for them as well.
Players look at the T20 format differently? Do you forsee players playing only T20 leagues? You have a player like Kevin Pietersen playing only in the leagues even though he has excelled at the Test level…
Well, it depends on how much control the administrators want to have over that aspect. I think we are already seen how West Indian players are doing that. Instead of playing Test cricket, they are moving around to different markets, different teams and different competitions but just within the sphere of Twenty20 cricket. So I think it’s already started to happen. And I think it will probably increase, unless it’s controlled by the governing bodies of cricket. They will probably do so unless it becomes more business orientated where the businesses make the decisions and the monetary rewards factor into players’ decisions.
You were a good finisher. Have you identified somebody like that in your team?
I’m looking to groom nineteen players (smiles). I think it will take the majority of the squad to get a good result in this competition, so I am bit loathe to focus on one area or the other. Finishing was part of the game when I played. It’s an important role and plays a big part in the game. But, there’s probably eighty to ninety per cent of the match that I also need to attend to. I want to help my players execute their roles as well as possible. It doesn’t occupy my mind that much because it was something that I did as a player. I think as a coach, you need to understand what the different roles are within a team. And, then, you need to look at who can perform and fulfill the different roles. You need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your players. So, it (finishing) forms a little bit of my decision-making process but not the entirety.
How has the role of a finisher evolved from your playing days? Now, you have only 4 players for 40 overs and then you have 5 for the last ten. In your time the rules were very different and you were known to get those ones and twos. Please elaborate….
Thanks for letting me know (laughs) because I didn’t know that. One of the reasons why I don’t know that is because I don’t really watch much cricket nowadays. So, when people now ask me what’s happening, I say, I don’t really know. So, in all honesty I can’t really answer that question because
I’m not really watching that much cricket. Of course if I’m doing a bit of commentary I have to sit down and watch the players. I did a bit of it during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, so I can’t really answer that question.
How different are Indian domestic players from those in other countries?
I’ve always felt that the Indian cricket scene (is rich) because of the per capita in population. There’s so much talent here in India than many other countries just given the fact that there are so many other people. That’s probably the first thing that strikes me about Indian domestic players. I have coached here a little bit and I’ve already found them to be supremely talented. They work very hard. But in their evolution, when they become seniors, their learning is perhaps not that advanced. Indians players love to practise. They love the game. Sometimes, you just have to turn their attention to quality practice than quantity practice because they just get into the habit of practising all the time. It happens in Australia too and it happened when I played too. We just tend to go through the motions as players. We don’t think about how we are going to improve more quickly or efficiently. There are so many talented players and they spend so much time practising, but then it’s about refocusing them on the really important things that will help them improve quickly.
Take us through the mindset of you as a player. Tell us why you had such a great record as a finisher…
I didn’t really understand my mindset when I was playing. If I’m really honest, I just did what I did and I didn’t understand why I did well or why I did poorly. I think of the things as I am a coach now, I do so to impart knowledge to the players. For me I really followed a particular game plan, I really tried to follow my strengths and understand my weaknesses. I tried to work out what was happening around me in terms of who was bowling, the pitch conditions, the match situations and I think the thing that I was perhaps good at was making the right decisions at the right times. So, what I try to do is help players now make those same decisions in their own way because they’re not going to make their decisions in the same way that I did. Whatever I did is probably wrong for ninety-five per cent of the players. If you look at all the so-called finishers now, guys like MS Dhoni and Mike Hussey and I don’t know who’s doing it nowadays, but they’re different players from what I was. They just
do it in a different way from what I did.
There are a lot of nerves involved in the T20 cricket. Do you think the today’s cricketers handle the nerves better?
I’m not sure; I still believe that T20 cricket is where ODI Cricket was in the late 1980s, early 1990s. What I mean by that; is when I played South Africa were the first team to have a win ratio of seventy or eighty per cent and other teams were still working out how to play the game and the players to select. Nowadays, people I speak to about T20 cricket say there is a lot of luck or a bit of chance involved. But, I think, at some stage there will be teams, coaches or players that will crack the formula. They’ll understand the way to play it and they’ll be more lucky and they’ll have less breaks to go against them because they would have worked it out. So, I guess those teams will handle the pressure better because they’ve understood the formula and, inevitably, they won’t put any pressure on themselves.
Being the original finisher, who do you think is the best finisher in the modern game?
Yes, I was the original finisher, wasn’t I (laughter)? They made that name up themselves. I didn’t give that name to me. I think the first question is what they call a loaded question because, clearly, you have one of the best finishers of all time in MS Dhoni. Look, he’s pretty impressive not just in finishing but just as a player in general. Clearly he’s been an outstanding performer and he’s achieved some outstanding things for Indian cricket. The guy who took over from me, Mike Hussey, was the version 2.0 or whatever version they’re up to nowadays (laughter). I thought he had an extra cog or extra speed than what I had, so I thought he was pretty amazing and had a really good grasp of how to finish a match. Someone like even Virat Kohli or AB Devilliers, they kind of redefine it because they kind of come in early they start and they finish. These types of guys their performances at the moment are phenomenal, all these guys are in great company.
Is there any particular exceptional talent that you have spotted from your Madurai Super Giants side?
I arrived in India less than 48 hours ago and last night we had a bit of a fielding session because I understood that we had spent a lot of time in the nets and we played a practice match. We have got another session tonight and I’ve organised another fielding session which I don’t think the players will be too happy about. I think that fielding will play a large part in who wins the tournament and I just want them to stop practicing because they practice so much. I haven’t had the opportunity yet but I know what they’re capable of. I’ve seen a few players in the IPL and in opposing teams as well there are lot of good players and right now it’s really up to performing more than talent or how good people are.
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