Finch resolves to be himself
Aaron Finch was not himself during his first two ODI appearances for Australia earlier this month, and he knew it.
The fearless but calculated striking for Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades that had won Finch his place in the team was momentarily absent, replaced by some indecisive prods at the ball that had him snicking behind in game one and pouched at short cover in game two.
This was not the way Finch had turned heads this summer, and a nod as the ACA's player of the month for December has reiterated the fact. As he prepares to face Sri Lanka in the two Twenty20 internationals at Sydney's Olympic Stadium and the MCG, Finch said he would be seeking to play more naturally, using his power but also his brain.
"It was a great confidence boost to get picked," Finch told ESPNcricinfo. "I was disappointed with how I played in the two one day games, but at the same time I took a lot of experience out of it. I learned a lot about my game funnily enough, just in two games.
"It doesn't sound like a lot of time, but just the way I went about it was probably a little different to how I do for Victoria and the Renegades. I probably didn't try to play my natural game, I was probably more conservative. You can only learn by failing I guess."
There have been a few failures over the course of Finch's career to date, surprising those who have seen him at his best, coshing the ball so cleanly while also demonstrating a technique compact enough to withstand quality bowling. Last summer he followed an off-season in which he played for Australia A with a dire domestic season for the Bushrangers, forcing his omission from the Shield team - he is still on the fringes of the first-class team.
Finch has admitted to being worn down at times by his own expectations, and said the catalyst for his success this so far this summer was the barnstorming limited overs innings of 154 against Queensland at the Gabba in October. Composed as part of an opening stand of 226 with Rob Quiney, the innings lifted much of that weight from Finch's shoulders.
"That being my first hundred in the one-day format was great, it probably took a little bit of pressure off me," Finch said. "I've been putting pressure on myself to really be that guy who's in there and wins games for the team. In the past I've just got us into positions where we can win, but never really finished them myself. So it was really pleasing to get a big one early in the season and ease into the season a little bit more rather than chasing your tail.
"Myself and Bobby Quiney just had a great partnership, we were feeding off each other, we were both in pretty good control of our game, which in one-day cricket you can feel like you're getting behind the game and take too many risks, but that day everything just seemed to flow for us."
That flow continued on into the BBL, where Finch showed a sharpness of leadership in first helping to recruit a strong and savvy Renegades squad, then showing vim as captain of a team that lost only one of eight qualifying matches before slipping up regrettably in the semi-finals. The likes of Aaron O'Brien and Ben Rohrer flourished under Finch, who placed more faith in them than other had at times over undersung careers.
"It was a pretty nervy time, the first time I'd had the captaincy from day one," Finch said. "I'd done it every now and then for Victoria but never had it in my own right, so I was a bit nervous. We were really confident with the players we got together that we could have a big impact in the tournament. It's not a tournament you can win with just one or two players and the really pleasing thing was we put a side together of people who've won before, they know how to win and guys who really play their role well.
"Going back a little bit from a Victorian point of view someone like Aaron O'Brien always played really well against us. We knew how good he was as an intelligent cricketer, plays his role, you know what you're going to get and he never disappointed. Ben Rohrer's probably had a different role in the past in teams he's played with, he's been Nos. 6 and 7 and finishing the innings, but he wanted a new challenge and he was perfect for us. He was our No. 1 target and luckily we got him. We saw the quality of him through the BBL, taking games away from the opposition."
Finch is now representing Australia in two formats, and has reason to be pleased. But there are two goals sitting centrally in his mind. The first is to take the freedom of his best domestic batting onto the international stage. The second is to finally prove himself as a first-class batsman, for a current average of 29.96 from 30 matches does him about as much justice as those two worrisome ODI innings against Sri Lanka in Melbourne and Adelaide.
"It can't be too much of a technical thing, I feel like that's in pretty good order," Finch said of the long-form gap on his resume. "It's probably mental, a combination of a few things. Missing out a few times, you start to doubt yourself and then you tend to play a little more conservatively, but depending on how many Shield games I get to play after Christmas, I'm confident I can come out and do well. I don't feel like it's too far away, I've been working hard on that, and confident in myself I can score heavily."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here