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Finch Rises From Ashes to Assert Himself as Australia's Lynchpin

Adam Collins |June 16, 2019, 10:27 PM IST
Finch Rises From Ashes to Assert Himself as Australia's Lynchpin

Late January 2016. Aaron Finch is Australia’s Twenty20 captain. It’s a format they seldom play but there’s a World T20 tournament around the corner. Run out after tearing a hamstring, he swears all the way back to the MCG dressing room. Despite being Australia’s most consistent batsman in the format, he’s sacked as captain when the squad is named.

Across the 2018-19 season, it’s happening again. The circumstances are not identical but it is the most miserable time of Finch’s career. From the heady heights of making the Test side, earning in October the baggy green he cherished, by March he was a walking wicket, his front pad blown off as often as his stumps were flattened.

Along the way, again at the MCG, Finch loses his Test place after feeding slip a catch from Jasprit Bumrah’s bowling. The Indian spearhead continues to haunt him in white-ball cricket, first in Australia then in India. Finch on the other side of this period admits he thought he was going to lose his spot for this World Cup, with captaincy the collateral damage.

But not even four months later he’s the in-form white-ball opener in the world, as though his aestas horribilis never happened. Except that it was one of the things that have equipped him to dominate for this team and lead it in his image. Mainly, he chalks this up to mindset. “There were a lot of times when I was just questioning every single decision that I was making,” he explained after clocking a splendid century against Sri Lanka, the 14th of his ODI career.

aaron finch

“Whether it was technical, mental, physical,” he continued, “I was questioning everything. You're looking for an answer but you don't know what the question is.” Because he was snatching so hard for success – and training too hard, as his friend Glenn Maxwell noted – the clarity he craved never had space to emerge from the maelstrom.

“It was a really great learning for me. Obviously it would have been nice to have that at 22 and not 32, but overall, what I learned was you can strip it back as much as you want, but it doesn't change the basics as an opening batter to go out there and defend good balls and score runs. I was looking for everything other than the most basic thing.”

See ball, hit ball. The Oval, where he’s done plenty of that for Surrey, was the perfect place for it all to come together across a 132-ball 153. Putting on a straight driving recital early, the pyrotechnics came later. Between times, he combined with Steve Smith for 173 in 118 balls – the biggest partnership of this competition to date.

He made smart decisions, like attacking the short boundaries and hitting with the wind. That his century was raised with a straight six is only right given he has 14 of them in this World Cup, more than double anyone else. And nobody has more tournament runs.

Ed Cowan, who knows a thing or two about opening the batting, tweeted that he had never seen Finch look tighter technically, suggesting that some Ricky Ponting “gold dust” might have been involved. Asked about the influence of the former captain and current assistant coach, the current skipper acknowledged its importance before sharing the love around the staff. “But the answer to the question is yes. It's been great to have him around, no doubt.”

Finch

Finch was also satisfied by making it well beyond three figures, something he has rarely achieved in ODI cricket, knowing this is where he had more to give once so well set. Observing all that he offers, it is is difficult to believe that when Australia were in the country last year he wasn’t leading them, with that promotion only formally coming some six months after the sandpaper bans were issued. When Finch talks, he sounds like he has been the captain for as long as Faf du Plessis or Virat Kohli or Eoin Morgan.

Reflecting on his journey, he gets it. Discussing his players, more important again, he gets them too. Finch has been close with David Warner since they were teenagers. Maxwell was never one of Smith’s favourites as skipper, but Finch had him as the MC at his wedding. Captaincy might not be a popularity contest, but it cannot hurt that his players have such high regard for him.

Finch is looking ahead with an even temperament now that they have one foot in the semi-finals. A win next week against Bangladesh would seal that. “We're happy where we're sitting,” he said, “but it is time to sit back and assess where we can improve and what we can do over the next couple of weeks to give ourselves the best chance to be standing on the Lord's balcony on the 14th of July.”

How recently it was that Finch might not have even imagined being in England on the 1st of June.

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Cricket World Cup Points Table

Pos Team P W L T/NR PTS NRR
1
IND
9 7 1 1 15 +0.80
2
AUS
9 7 2 0 14 +0.86
3
ENG
9 6 3 0 12 +1.15
4
NZ
9 5 3 1 11 +0.17
5
PAK
9 5 3 1 11 -0.43
6
SL
9 3 4 2 8 -0.91
7
SA
9 3 5 1 7 -0.03
8
BAN
9 3 5 1 7 -0.41
9
WI
9 2 6 1 5 -0.22
10
AFG
9 0 9 0 0 -1.32

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3663 105
5 Australia 2640 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6420 123
2 India 6807 122
3 New Zealand 4763 113
4 Australia 5470 112
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 Australia 5471 261
5 India 7273 260
see more