May 8, 1999
From Bradman to Bevan
The year: 1932. The ground: MCG. The match: Australia versus World eleven. The batsman: D G Bradman. The bowler: Wasim Akram !!! Imagine that we invented a time machine and such a scenario as the one described above was indeed possible
Don Bradman playing against an attack which consists of Wasim Akram, Allan Donald, Curtly Ambrose, Saqlain Mustaq. Suppose there is a five-match Test series. How many would Sir Don average in such a series? The question is how do you compare the true calibre of a batsman when compared to the cricketers of the present era. Every era has its greats, and I think it is unfair to compare two batsmen if they have not played together.
But really how great is Sir Don? He averages 99, but some say that was a long time ago, when fielding was not so good, the art of swing bowling was not fully developed and, more importantly, cricket was not a game of professionals. In my effort to prove that 'Bradman is the greatest theory' can be disproved, by showing that 99 was not a great average in those days, I researched through the Test players of Bradman's era. Bill Ponsford, Stan Mcabe, Len Hutton then; of later era's, Weeks, Walcott, Pollock, Sobers. To my dismay, I found that Bradman was a clear 40 points ahead of almost all of them.
Was the Bradman average an aberration? I think that a high average can only be maintained by playing without risks, that is along the ground, but at the same time scoring at an aggresive rate. Both of the qualities Bradman had. He is described as seldom hitting sixes and taking risks, yet he was capable of scoring 300 runs in a day. There is no modern batsman that fits this description. What I am suggesting is that the Bradman average is a testament to his concentration and riskless play, but perhaps not to his cricketing ability.
A modern day one-day wonder is Michael Bevan. He averages over 60 in one-day internationals, a clear 20 points ahead of this best contemporarries, Mark Waugh, Tendulkar, Lara, Kirsten. But if you ask most about the best one-day batsman, not many would point to Bevan. Bevan has played only 103 one-day matches, but he may well retire with the same average as he has now. Interestingly, his Test average is 39.80 and he does not have a Test century to his name. Is Bevan an aberration ? You just don't get the impression of greatness while seeing him bat. If you closely look at Bevan's statistics though you will see that out of 93 innings, he has been not out 37 times !!! He usually comes in late in the order, scores 30-40 runs, stays not out, and maintains this average. Not to say that this is easy, but statistics can be misleading sometimes. The next best one-day average is of Sir Viv Richards. If somebody tells me that Mr. Bevan is a better bat than Sir Richards I would think he is joking.
Anyway, what if Bradman was born in 1972, and was at his peak right now? Do you think he would average 99? I am willing to bet (any takers) that Wasim would have him cheaply a few times, maybe even knock his middle stump once. But I do think he would still have the best of averages, though not 99. He would still be the best batsman today inspite of Lara and Tendulkar. But a 99 average, no way !! The reason for his success today would be the same as was seven decades ago .. tremendous concentration, riskless but aggressive play. Yes, Bradman probably is the best batsman of all time, but not because of a 99 average; and Michael Bevan is not the best one-day batsman of all time inspite of an average above 60.
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