Greatest ODI Finisher of All Time! Bevan or MSD

A-ha! Now you decide whether an Aussie or an Indian -> my friends would say. I had planned to write the article after Dhoni retires. But I can’t bear the waiting any longer. Mirror mirror on the wall. Who is the greatest finisher of them all? Well, all that apart, the only real contestants being called the greatest one-day cricket finishers of all time are Michael Bevan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Nope do not make the mistake of comparing them as cricketers because Dhoni with his versatility will win hands down. Just compare them as ODI finishers. That’s what I am out to do today. I came up with some interesting facts and stats while doing so.Let’s first list some candidates who deserve although not in the same league as these two specialists. Some of them are Lance Kluesner, Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, Mike Hussey, AB De Villiers and VIA Richards arguably the greatest one-day batsman of all time. He and Sachin will say no we do not need a finisher. We can finish the match a long time before the overs are completed with available resources at the other end. But that is another story and another breed of batsmen.By finisher do we mean a batsman who remains not out at the end when an inning is over? Nope. I mean the batsman who finished the match and won it for his team is the greatest finisher. In most cases, such an inning will result in the batsman remaining not out at the end. But there are many an innings in which the batsman had pretty much finished it before getting out. Sachin Tendulkar at Sharjah in 1998 against Australia played two magical century innings, one to propel India into the finals and the second to win the final for India. He got out in both the innings. But it was finishing of the highest order and did the job for his country very effectively indeed. And this is where Bevan and Dhoni come into the picture. They made a real difference when it mattered most to their teams. And they did it many times. This fact alone leaves clear daylight between them and the others.

The best qualities of MS Dhoni is that he is calm about everything when everyone in the stadium and watching the match on TV is about to have a heart attack. This was pretty much the case with Michael Bevan as well. But Bevan had solid batsmen keeping him company during his time such as Waugh brothers, Damien Martyn etc. Dhoni also benefitted from these batsmen at the other end but more towards the end of his career. They were both outstanding runners between wickets. More than that, they were excellent judges of runs. They knew when to convert a single into two and a two into three, and also when to not take the risk. This increased the pressure on the opposition a great deal. Not only the boundaries kept coming but the running between wickets killed the match for the opposition.One area where Dhoni stands out is big hitting. He can hit sixes and Bevan, on the other hand, was not a big hitter. He could hit out if required but not with the same consistency as Dhoni. That to my mind is the real difference between the two. Bevan has won as many matches for his team as Dhoni did but with caresses and pushes rather than the controlled hitting of Dhoni. A finisher needs temperament and they both had it. I am saying “were” though Dhoni is still around. But I believe we have seen his best.Most Indians will point at career strike rate to tilt the balance in Dhoni’s favor but Bevan played in a slightly different era where the batsmen did not score at the same rate as today apart from the Tendulkars, Waughs, and Laras obviously. And the teams also did not amass the same totals as today. So this statistic does not do justice to Bevan. They both have great batting averages in the excess of 50s. They absolutely killed the opposition with exquisite finishing. No matter how they did it, by running around or hitting out, it was clinical.Dhoni finishing is about his ability to do both: big hitting and nudges and pushes and run like a hare. Also, Dhoni played in an era when there was a lot of cricket played and he had to perform multiple roles in T20s, ODIs, Tests and IPL. This alone is backbreaking. While Bevan played ODI cricket basically along with the first-class matches and a little bit of test match cricket. Less stress definitely than compared to the modern cricketers like Dhoni. Maintaining fitness in such cases is very difficult. Dhoni has managed this but Bevan struggled towards the end of his career with a series of fitness problems.Michael Bevan batted at no 4 or 5 when he engineered those great finishes while Dhoni at 5-6. This is mainly because Dhoni would take more risks than Bevan and due to the heavy price tag on his wicket, a tendency to push him down the order must have existed within the team management although this is conjecture. Although Dhoni’s most famous innings the 2011 world cup final had him playing at no 4. It was exhilarating to watch the great cricketer clinically finishing the final with aplomb. And he finished it all with a six. That was like placing an exclamation mark on the match and the world cup!!Most mortal cricketers in this world panic when the difference between the numbers of balls left and runs to get starts to get out of hand but not these two. It was just unbelievable to watch them keeping their calm and going about their job as if it was everyday chores. What these guys are made up of can be seen with finishing no one else can repeat so many times. Many great cricketers have graced the game and a lot of them have played stellar roles in their teams winning. But finishing the matches victoriously for their teams so many times? No. No one! These two just cannot be beaten at that.Bevan was a part of two world cup winning squads in 1999 and 2003. It is noteworthy that Australia was at the top of their game when he was playing ODI cricket and was in his prime. Dhoni won the single ODI WC victory for India in 2011 although he is still playing and I am sure is eyeing the 2019 world cup as his last hurrah.

Bevan has the highest batting average for a retired ODI cricketer of 53.58 while Dhoni averages 51.37 at the moment and will end up around 50. This also doesn’t indicate any clear advantage for Bevan because Dhoni would take more risks and as a result, would have a better strike rate than Bevan who will have the slightly better average. Both of them played and won matches playing with tail-enders and many times. I cannot describe in words how unbelievable it was to watch these men do it over and over again.Another critical point that goes against Dhoni is the pitches he played on. Bevan played on large Australian grounds which make hitting sixes difficult while Dhoni batted at a time when the game was tailor-made for batsmen and on Indian conditions which have always been friendly to batsmen. Though Bevan comes from an all Aussie domination era where the team was on a roll, Dhoni busted the Indian habit of being poor chasers. That is his greatest achievement really for his country. It is no mean achievement, allow me to tell you, as I have seen Indian cricket since the 1980s and this had become a minor crisis back then.VERDICTI have tried hard not to compare them as overall cricketers and talk about Dhoni captaincy or Bevan left-arm spin bowling. These were like bonuses to their teams. I am not going to discuss the Bevan test record either as again that is irrelevant to the topic. You can compare their stats all you want, all day. You will find them counterbalance each other in the end. But despite considering everything I still cannot ignore the huge difference in strike rate. It is 15 points and I think that is the real and telling difference. Need I say more?

Creating Culture of Accountability, Performance and Coaching – Lean Performance Management

If there is ONE talk-show that is very scary and beat the shit out of everyone, right from the CEO of an organization to fresh-graduate Trainee is – Performance Management Talks. Why people are so scared to discuss their performance? There can be many reasons and few of them are -

  1. Format – Performance is considered as an event which is organized once in a year or at the best once in every SIX months. However, the fact remains that Performance Management is a continuous process.
  2. Poor alignment of performance scores and merit increase – No matter how much an individual score in his performance assessment, it is his reporting manager who decides his merit increase percentage and usually there is no correlation between the two. Hence, employees don’t believe in the process.
  3. Incompetent and untrained Assessors/Managers – Many managers do not consider performance management as one of the key components of their role. They believe it to be a job of HR. Probably they don’t want to spoil their relationship with their team members. Managers are usually biased in their approach towards assessment of team members. They want to keep everyone happy.
  4. Poorly defined KRA’s and KPI’s (What needs to be measured and how it will be measured) – In many organizations, performance goals don’t seem to have any relation to organizational goals. They work in silos. They don’t have defined success criteria’s of their goal. There is no clarity about what need to be done and when the task will be labeled as “successfully completed”.
  5. Poor communication between assessor and assessee – Communication regarding the change in goal or change in success criteria rarely gets communicated to employees. They are up for a surprise when they are told about these changes in the final review meeting. This leads to irritation and frustration and as a result, leads to unhappy, disengaged employees.

What gets measured gets managed. And what gets managed gets improved upon. What organizations should do to overcome these challenges and fears of employees and can do to create a culture of performance?

1) The Role of a manager is to manage – It is one thing to roll-up your sleeves and get to work and it is another thing to do what you are hired for. A team member is promoted to the position of Team Manager to guide the team, manage the team and show the direction. If he will continue to contribute as a team member then he is not doing his work properly. As a team manager, it is his responsibility to manage his resources, communications, customers, performances of the team and deliver within specified timeline. Performance Management and Performance Coaching must be one of the key competencies for an individual to be hired to or promoted to the level of manager. “Don’t promote your subject-matter expert as Manager. An efficient and effective manager need not be subject-matter expert”. “Performance Management or Resource Management is not my work” is an excuse.

2) Aligning KRA’s and KPI’s of an individual with organizational goals – Every organization carve annual goals and growth targets for itself. Every employee in an organization must contribute towards those goals and targets. Every goal has defined success criteria; hence, every goal or target is measurable. Every employee in an organization contributes towards the goals of his department or team, which in turn inches organization closer to its goals. For an individual to win his team must win and his organization must achieve its targets. Its collective win and collective failure. Someone said, “But I did my job properly”. Unfortunately, your contribution was not sufficient or good enough for the organization to achieve its goals. One question an employee must always ask himself, “how better I can contribute” or “what else I can do”.

3) Aligning Performance Assessment scores with Merit Increase Percentage – “I have scored 85/100 in my annual performance assessment. Another team member scored 75/100. I am awarded 10% increase over my existing salary and he has been awarded 18% increase over his existing salary, how”? Usually, managers don’t answer these types of questions or they put the blame on the management team of organization and thereby creating an impression, “if you want to give increments as per your whims and fancies then why you did this drama of appraisals, you could have given us increment without assessing us”. There has to be a direct and clear correlation between assessment scores and merit increase percentage. This correlation can be drawn at grade level or functional level based on the business model of organization and its compensation philosophy.

4) Performance Management is a process (creating a culture of performance coaching) – Performance management is not once a year activity. It is a continuous process. A manager shall have monthly performance review meeting with his team members to assess their progress and communicate any deviation in goals. A manager must create performance review tracker. In such circumstances, your annual review meeting becomes less tedious and less scary because before even entering for the final assessment, both assessor and assessee know what to expect from the meeting.

Secondly, there is another advantage of monthly performance reviews. If the concerned manager decides to separate from the organization at any time during the year, the new manager will not find himself out of place. Through performance tracker, he will be able to trace performance goals and progress of individuals in his team.

Thirdly, monthly performance reviews will let the manager know challenges faced by his team members in achieving their goals and hence he will be able to coach him and take corrective actions at an appropriate time.

Fourthly, organizations and managers set their annual goals at the beginning of a year. Many changes might occur during the due course of year forcing organization and employees to realign their goals. Monthly review meetings provide a platform for every type of correction and communication. Lastly, monthly performance assessments will eliminate any kind of bias from the process.

5) Lean Appraisals – THREE of the biggest drawbacks of annual performance appraisals are -

A) Managers can compare performance scores of their team members and hence will be biased towards their favorite team member, which creates unrest and frustration among employees.

B) When appraisals are done once in a year, there will be a huge increase in cash flow in one given month, as per the performance cycle of the organization.

C) During the year, many new employees join the organization and old employees resign, therefore, in annual appraisals, there will be few employees who will be assessed for SEVEN months and few will be assessed for FIFTEEN months. It might create unnecessary difficulty in allocating increment percentage to employees. Hence, there is a need to have lean appraisal system.

Lean appraisals mean doing an annual assessment of employees in their month of joining. A manager managing a team of 24 employees will be required to do TWO assessments in a month, instead of doing 24 in one particular month. It will not be difficult for the organization to arrange for a big chunk of cash-flow in one particular month. It will eliminate any type of bias from the system. There will not be a comparison of performance scores and increments among employees.

On the part of the management team of the organization, they need to allocate budget to each manager to manage his team. The budget shall be driven by market and industry and a manager will get it proportionate to the number of members of his team at the beginning of financial year. This fund shall be called as Performance Management Budget for the year ****. Thereafter, it shall be the responsibility of a manager to manage his fund and report back to the management.

Let’s understand and accept this. Performance Management and Coaching is one of the integral responsibilities of a manager. They shall not push it on the management of human resource function. HR is to facilitate the process. Management is to allocate the budget. Employees working in the organization are not your personal friends. They have been hired to perform a specific role. They are paid for their performance. As a manager, you must help them improve their performance.

Readers might think that this type of performance management system is not feasible and not practical, however, the fact remains that such system is scalable and manageable. I have done this in my several consulting assignments.

Your feedbacks and comments will be highly appreciated.