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Home > Cricket > The Cup > Special

The Rediff Special

Australia will be tough to beat: Bevan

March 26, 2007

Michael Bevan

Australia, who came into the World Cup on the back of some indifferent form after defeats in the tri-series final at home to England and in New Zealand, announced themselves with a crushing victory over nearest rivals South Africa.

The world champions dished out a brilliant batting performance to beat South Africa in their last group match and reclaim the number one ranking in one-dayers.

Sri Lanka are not far behind and have played some great cricket to advance to the Super Eight stage, where debutants Ireland are the surprise entrants.

Asian powerhouse Pakistan was knocked out as early as the first week of the World Cup and neighbours India are relying on a miracle to survive a humiliating first round exit.

Former Australia batsman Michael Bevan, regarded as one of the best to have played the limited-overs version of the game, talks about Australia's chances and also reviews their showing so far.

'Australia have a number of players that may well be finishing up after the World Cup and they may want to finish on a high note,' he told Special Correspondent Harish Kotian.


Michael, I hope you saw Saturday's thrilling match between Australia and South Africa. What a great contest it was. Australian batsman came out firing on all cylinders and posted a huge 378 in their 50 overs, which in the end proved too good for South Africa. How big is this victory for Australia?

Everyone was talking about the fact that Australia are no longer the favourites or that there are a number of teams who could win the World Cup over Australia. I guess what you have to remember is that Australia have a number of players that may well be finishing up after the World Cup and they may want to finish on a high note. So, I believe the Australian team will save their very best cricket for when they need to. If there was any indication of how Australia played against South Africa then Australia will be fairly tough to beat.

Apart from the two points that they take into the Super Eights after this victory the biggest positive for Australia was the way their young pacers Shaun Tait and Nathan Bracken bowled on a flat pitch. What is your take on their performance?

Nathan Bracken has been a good one-day bowler for Australia for a number of years now. He has always showed himself to be a good one-day bowler and very tight. Now he bowls pretty well at the depth as well with a mixture of slower balls and yorkers.

Shaun Tait has burst onto the scene after having a great year playing domestic cricket for Australia. He has shown that he can bowl up to speeds of around 150 [km/hr] and so he has got plenty of pace. He is still finding his way in international cricket so I think one of the benefits that Tait will possess on the slow wickets will be his wicket-taking ability and regardless of how slow the wickets are, he will always be able to beat the batsman with pace and use his change up of yorkers and bouncers to a great degree.

If you see Australia's bowling attack is not that experienced, with only Glenn McGrath having played more than 100 matches. So, considering that, you think they did well to restrict South Africa on a good batting pitch?

Australia were lucky to post a very large score and when you post a score like that it's really going to be hard to get that score. So Australia really had the benefit of being able to restrict South Africa under pressure. Now had it been the other way round [with South Africa batting first] and that is going to be the true test for the Australian bowlers. But having said that I think there were a couple of matches in the New Zealand series where Australia didn't manage to restrict New Zealand when they were chasing large scores.

So I think Australia will take a win from that and the bowling side will take a win from that and it will give confidence going into the Super Eights.

Losing Brett Lee has obviously put a large hole in the Australian attack because Brett has been such a great performer for Australia in the last few years in one-day cricket. So Australia's attack is a bit inexperienced but the times that they have played generally they have done well.

As you said Lee's absence has put a large hole in the Australian attack, so considering that how important do you think is McGrath's role in this team?

Glenn's role is really important. Everyone has been talking about the fact that he has lost his pace and lost a bit of zip and he is not the bowler that he once was. But what he will provide Australia, especially going into the Super Eights, the semi-finals and hopefully the final, will be some experience, some big match experience.

He is a big match performer so one thing that Glenn McGrath will guarantee is that wherever he needs to bowl or whatever needs to happen he will get it right. So hopefully his experience will also help pull some of the younger players in those big scenarios and having a calming influence as well.

Was it blessing for Australia that they lost a few matches before the start of the World Cup? Now, they seem really hungry and determined.

I think it was probably a good thing losing a few matches before the World Cup. They had a couple of injuries and they left a couple of players out that would normally play, so they were a little bit under strength, so you couldn't really read into it too much.

But I guess what it might have done is that Australia went into the World Cup without any complacency. One of the traits I believe Australia have held or hold over the last couple of years is the ability not to be complacent and to keep setting new standards for themselves.

So while they try to set new standards, that complacency never really shows itself.

Mike Hussey is referred to as by some fans as the modern 'Michael Bevan'. He performs the role that you so successfully did for Australia during your time. Batting at number 5 or 6 requires you to immediately adjust to situations. How difficult is it batting in that position which always requires you to play crucial knocks every time you arrive to the crease?

I think Mike Hussey is doing a fantastic job for Australia. He has had a great couple of years and he seems to have slotted into that number 5 or 6 position really easily. He has the ability to play whatever stroke he needs to in that situation. So he has got tremendous amount of flexibility and seems very comfortable in that position. I think Australia are really lucky to have someone like him batting where he is.

I think the World Cup in the West Indies may be won or lost in the first 15-20 overs because the grounds are very small, outfields are fast. Now they have got the Powerplay up to 20 overs. So, I think the majority of the runs or the bulk of them are going to be scored probably towards the front end of the innings.

Pakistan have already bowed out and India are also on the verge, barring a miracle. What do you think has gone wrong for these teams? India was regarded as a good side filled with top batsmen.

It's really hard to pinpoint what might or what has gone wrong or what might go wrong for the Indian team when you are not part of the set up. It could be any number of chinks.

The Indian team have got such a talented line-up that you kind of expect them to do really well in every game but they perhaps have been under-performing to a certain degree.

So you would hope that when they play or they progress they can get their act together and right and show us what they are capable of.

On the odd occasion it does seem that India and Pakistan are a little bit inconsistent at times. One of the key especially in a World Cup or leading to a World Cup is to gain that consistency. So when you go into big matches or big tournaments you know that you are going to play well as supposed to hoping.

You were part of the World Cup winning team in 2003. How different is this team to the one that won the title four years back considering that some of the players from that team are still playing, but the game has changed a lot since the last tournament?

Well it's very hard to tell at this point of time until we see how Australia perform at this World Cup. But I think they will do pretty well. The Australian team continues to go from strength to strength. I think the evolution of one-day cricket, the pace at which it is evolving I believe the Australian team is continuing to prove in all facets of the game -- batting, bowling and fielding.

What we are finding is most teams, in particular Australia, are setting new standards in terms of the total they can achieve. The Australian team is really continuing to improve and really has since 1995 I guess.

Watching the form Australia displayed against South Africa, you think any team can stop Australia if they continue playing this way?

Any team can have a bad day and Australia showed before the tournament that they can lose matches and teams can beat them if they play well. I think South Africa didn't have a bad game, but Australia played extremely well -- South Africa scoring nearly 300 chasing around 370. If you had to turn around that and South Africa batted first and posted a 300 plus score, then it might well have been a different story.

So while South Africa will be disappointed to lose that match, I still think they have gained something from it in the knowledge they can get 300 plus against Australia.

I still feel South Africa will be a strong team in the World Cup. You have teams like Sri Lanka and New Zealand, who are good performers and have been doing well in one-day cricket in the last couple of years. So teams like Sri Lanka and New Zealand I think definitely have an outside chance to win the World Cup.

I guess with a team like India or England, you never really know what you are going to get. They are capable of playing great cricket, but at times never play as well as they should. They are probably teams capable of upsetting, probably capable of winning the World Cup, but may well provide a couple of games where they upset teams.

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