Bye, bye, Bevan
Michael Bevan, who at his peak was the best one-day batsman in the world, has retired with immediate effect. Bevan spent his last three seasons with Tasmania and joined his former national team-mates Shane Warne and Damien Martyn as senior players who have walked away this summer.
Bevan, 36, has suffered a series of on-going fitness problems, which have limited him to six matches for his state in 2006-07, and his inability to play at his desired standard forced the decision. "It got to the stage where injuries and pain were holding back my motivation," Bevan told AAP. "It got to the stage where I was finding it hard to get up for matches and that was probably a pretty clear indication that it was time to move on."
With his pin-point placement, quick running and calculating mind, he was a crucial part of a string of Australian one-day successes over ten years that included World Cup victories in 1999 and 2003. He played 232 ODIs but none was more memorable than the game against West Indies on new year's day in 1996 when he sealed victory with a last-ball four off Roger Harper. Australia had fallen to 7 for 74 chasing 173 and he calmly steered them to safety.
It was an escape act he would master many more times, including reviving Australia with Andy Bichel against England in the 2003 World Cup, but the 78 runs he scored at the SCG were the most valuable of his career. "The game is like my tied Test," he wrote in From the Best of Bevan. "It seems this night will always be my signature piece in cricket."
The timing of the innings was also important for Bevan as it came when there were doubts over his Test credentials. A problem with the short ball was exposed on England's trip in 1994-95 and despite scoring heavily in the first-class arena in Australia and during county stints, he could never rid himself of the stigma. He produced half-centuries in each of his first three Tests in Pakistan in 1994-95, including a career-high 91 in Lahore, but struggled to maintain his lofty domestic standards and finished as an allrounder who employed useful left-arm wrist spin.
Against West Indies in 1996-97 he made unbeaten scores of 85 as a No. 7 in Adelaide, where he also took 6 for 82, and 87 in the next match at Perth, but his 18-Test life was over a year later when he failed against South Africa. While his career in whites was unfulfilled, his effort in the one-day side remained untarnished until a slow home series in 2003-04 and an unproductive tour of Sri Lanka.
Aged 33, he was dumped from Cricket Australia's contract list along with Bichel, the World Cup saviours of a year earlier, and the following season moved from New South Wales to Tasmania, where he doubled as an assistant coach. He hoped for a one-off recall for the World Cup defence in the West Indies and did not go quietly, scoring a record 1,464 runs in the Pura Cup season of 2004-05 at an average of 97.6.
"[The World Cup] was something that I always wanted to be a part of and I still felt I was a good enough player to be a part of the team," he said. "But I guess this reason is more about whether I felt I was doing the right thing about myself and the right thing by Tasmania."
His body stopped putting up with his heavy demands - knee, heel and hip injuries afflicted him in his last three years - and at an international level his era had passed. He will move back to his home in Sydney next week but continue in a part-time coaching role with Tasmania. "A first-class job would be something I would look to at some stage in the future," he said.
Bevan's amazing limited-overs batting average of 53.58 is third on the all-time list behind Michael Hussey and Kevin Pietersen. He finished with 6,912 runs, six centuries, the patent for closing a one-day innings, which Hussey has built on, and a truly unforgettable night at the SCG.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo