There are many debates in cricket, which might not have answers. Who is better? Sachin or Lara? Bradman or Sachin? Who was the fastest? Shoaib or Brett Lee or Shaun Tait? And who is the best finisher of all time? Michael Bevan, who invented the role of a finisher or MS Dhoni, who perfected the art of finishing matches.
Let us take a look at two of the greatest ODI batsmen that the game has seen.
The definitive comparison between the two is a bit difficult due to the difference in the eras of them playing cricket. Michael Gwyl Bevan’s ODI career began in 1994 against Sri Lanka in Sharjah and went on to play till February of 2004, with his last match coming against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
MS Dhoni, on the other hand, made his debut against Bangladesh in December 2004 in Chittagong. He retired from Tests in 2014 but has continued to play for India in the limited overs format.
Bevan played in an era when ODI cricket had 15 overs of field restrictions in start, Sanath Jayasuriya, Sachin Tendulkar and Adam Gilchrist were redefining the opener’s role, bats were normal sized, grounds were bigger and the whole game was played with a single ball, with a change of ball coming in late in the game, assisting in reverse swing.
MS Dhoni has had the fortune of playing in an era with two new balls from each end, less reverse swing, smaller grounds, heavier and better bats, better field restrictions during the last 10 overs. He has had a longer career than Bevan, but these two players have defined the niche role of “finisher”.
In an effort to determine who the better finisher is, we have to take help of statistics and reach an outcome.
(All the stats courtesy of the Statsguru and updated till June 2018 )
Here are the career stats of both Michael Bevan and MS Dhoni.
However before we further delve deep into the analysis of who was better, let’s have a set of benchmarks or attributes to determine a finisher:
-High average suggests more runs, more unbeaten innings and therefore the individual helped his team through right till the end on more occasions.
-The high number of not outs.
-The high number of not outs in the second innings, when the pressure of chasing was more.
-Ability to score at a good and faster rate since you have to score quick runs in tighter situations.
-priceless runs in significant knocks in big games.
The better hitter
The generation gap between the careers of Michael Bevan and MS Dhoni has given a sense of parity to the whole comparison of who is the better hitter.
Bevan played in an era when the finisher was more dependent on running between the wickets and hitting fours, rather than going hammer and tongs in the last part of the innings to secure a win. Bevan was well adept at the running between the wickets game and hitting the occasional boundaries. The pitches used to help the spinners a lot, especially in the Indian subcontinent.
MS Dhoni, on the other hand, is a power hitter, who loves to hit sixes and often finishes the game with a six. He has been assisted by heavy bats, smaller grounds, field restrictions in the last few overs and batting friendly pitches.
Their strike rates are strikingly different with Bevan making his runs at 74.16 and Dhoni making his at 88.40. Also, the numbers of sixes hit by the two are vastly different, with Dhoni hitting 217 sixes, to Bevan’s 21 sixes.
This gives Dhoni a big edge over Bevan in the better hitter department.
Staying not out to take the team home
In chases, Dhoni has 46 not outs in 174 matches, while Bevan has 30 not outs from 112 matches. Bevan’s strike rate is 67.60, while Dhoni made his runs at 81.50.
Though Bevan won Australia games from some unwinnable positions, MS Dhoni bought a gradual change in the way India players thought when batting second. He not only himself chased down targets but inspired others to become a secondary finisher itself, with the likes of Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, and Ravindra Jadeja.
Before Dhoni, India failed to chase down runs, mostly in important games (cue 1996 World Cup semi-final vs. Sri Lanka). They loved batting first and then defend targets. However, since Dhoni’s arrival, things have changed a lot.
Who is the greatest?
Both Michael Bevan and MS Dhoni are best in their own regards. Bevan was the trendsetter and trailblazer for others to follow. He formed a template and others followed it and saw success in their own careers. He is the original ‘finisher’, as, before him, the role was not defined, nor a performa was set on how to follow and become a finisher.
Both are amazing at running between the wickets, assessing risk, assessing the situation and playing with the lower middle order and lower order batsmen.
However, when it comes to history choosing the best of the finishers of all time, MS Dhoni pipes Bevan for three major reasons.
1. MS Dhoni is still going strong and has better stats than Bevan. He has had a longer career than Bevan and with the added responsibility of keeping wickets.
2. MS Dhoni has had to endure the pressure of more than a billion people as captain, wicketkeeper and as a batsman for over a decade and a half; and he has succeeded in doing so.
3. MS Dhoni has groomed a younger lot to take over from him in the finisher’s role and has had a bigger impact on Team India during his tenure as the best chasing finisher in limited overs format.
Therefore, the history of ODI and limited overs cricket will definitely crown MS Dhoni as the greatest finisher of all time, an accolade he deserves.
By Jatin Sharma