Australia cricket October 14, 2013

Bold shots, bolder ambition for Finch

After an early struggle, Aaron Finch now feels at home in international company, and wants to use his strong India batting form as a springboard towards an Ashes place

Aaron Finch can pinpoint the moment at which he felt comfortable at the top level of the game. It was the first ball he faced against England at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, a ball from Steve Finn that whirred down short of a length and invited aggression. Previously, Finch had worried about perception, and essayed tentative strokes instead of bold ones. This time he swivelled instinctively and connected grandly: 15,000 English jaws dropped as it sailed gloriously high over square leg for six.

In that instant, Finch showed the capacity to relax and play his game, not worrying about the consequences, or the expectations of those around him. He was no longer a tentative, fidgeting international novice but a fearless batsman with a rare eye, the kind who had led the Melbourne Renegades with distinction last summer, leaving other players to remark about his presence. "He has a great aura about him sometimes," said one. "Times when you'll be thinking 'this guy is the best player out here'."

That aura was well and truly established by the time Finch departed in Southampton, 156 runs to his name and an England bowling attack battered well and truly into submission. He has continued on his merry way since, and innings of 89 and 72 in the first two matches of the India limited-overs tour indicate a batsman at ease with his talent and his surroundings. Finch now speaks without the doubts that previously occupied his thoughts, and harbours genuine ambitions to add a baggy green cap to his T20 and ODI shirts. It all started with that one ball from Finn.

"I didn't go out with a plan to do that, it was just one of those innings where I saw the ball well, and felt like I made a really good decision," Finch told ESPNcricinfo. "I wanted to go out there and dominate as you do in T20 and get the side off to a good start, but it just unfolded pretty quickly and I couldn't really rein it in after a while, I just kept going. One thing I've focused on is sticking to my game and my plans, and it was nice to have the support of the coaches and the captain to play my natural game.

"There's times when it doesn't work and you look like an idiot, but I'm prepared to wear that on the chin, and I'm sure that if I keep doing the right things, that I'll have success. What was really pleasing was that I went back to my natural game and didn't worry about perception or how I thought other people wanted me to play, and just played."

"I think at other times I've been a bit scared to get out, worried about the consequences instead of just batting, and that wears you down after a little while and plays on your mind. It was really refreshing and great to have the support that I've been picked for a reason, how I play and the runs I'd scored."

Having fumbled around in the dark to find the light switch for his international career over more than two years, Finch knows all about how difficult it can be to find that kind of clarity and confidence. Long regarded as a prodigious talent, he fought to translate that into runs, first for Victoria and then Australia. His first-class record remains a source of puzzlement, as an average of 29.56 from 33 matches does scant justice to the batsman who set such a strident tone against India in Pune on Sunday. Finch is optimistic that he has now found the right note on which to flourish.

"That's been an issue for a while obviously and I'd be stupid if I wasn't aware of it, but I feel like I can play well at international level now," Finch said. "It's not a technical thing, just a mental thing with the four-day game. I feel as though I've made some good improvements in the last 12 months to be able to deal with that, and hopefully take that game to another level. To play Test cricket is my ultimate goal still, I definitely haven't lost that ambition. I feel as though I'm now in a really good space to do that."

Two factors have helped Finch to find the space he speaks of. The first is the arrival of Darren Lehmann as Australia's coach, imparting simple advice and engendering confidence that the 26-year-old Victorian is taking out with him to the middle. The endorsement of the T20 and stand-in ODI captain George Bailey has also added to Finch's sense of self-belief.

"Boof's just encouraged me to play my natural game and really supported me with that, which obviously gives you a lot of confidence going into a series," Finch said of Lehmann, absent in body from the India tour but not in influence. "Just not being bothered by things as well. I think at other times I've been a bit scared to get out, worried about the consequences instead of just batting, and that wears you down after a little while and plays on your mind. It was really refreshing and great to have the support that I've been picked for a reason, how I play and the runs I'd scored. So he's said continue doing that, continue to back yourself. If it comes off, it comes off and if it doesn't, better luck next time."

Another source of knowledge and poise has been the advice of Virender Sehwag and Mahela Jayawardene, two subcontinental maestros and IPL teammates. To watch Finch's combination of precision and aggression against R Ashwin in the two matches thus far was to witness their advice put into practice.

"Spending time with great players from the subcontinent is invaluable I think. I spent two years with Virender Sehwag and Mahela Jayawardene, and I spoke to them a lot about batting in India and they were fantastic. Mahela averages 50 in Test cricket over many years for a reason. Just the different ideas they have on batting over there is quite unusual to how we're brought up, on pretty good wickets generally. You can't buy that kind of experience, to spend two months with those guys just training and talking cricket, different techniques and game plans you need to adjust to how India play cricket."

Beyond the India ODIs lie Sheffield Shield matches and a home Ashes series. Before Southampton, Finch may have doubted his chances of being chosen for Victoria in the former and dismissed out of hand any chance whatsoever of being considered for the latter. But now his eyes are level, the merest glint emerging when he ponders what may be in store for him this summer. The vacant No. 6 berth has not escaped his attention, and should things go according to plan, Finn will not be the only Englishman craning his neck to watch a ball disappear into the crowd.

"That's the great thing about the upcoming Ashes and this India series - if guys score runs they're going to be in the team, and I don't think Boof's made any secret of that," Finch said. "He's going to pick guys in form, regardless of history and perception. They want players in form, and whoever that is, hopefully I come back and get a couple of big hundreds in the Shield, and who knows. It's not that far away I don't think. I feel as though my game is ready to play well in four-day cricket and would be ready if I did get a gig in the Test team."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Graham on October 18, 2013, 5:11 GMT

    Joseph Langford; Where did you get that comment from. I have said that there are 4 blokes that have got there spots and 2 pick 2 out of 12 players who ever performs best in shield cricket and only 1 of those blokes is a NSW. 1/12 NSW - really drawing a long bow there. I'm a South Australian supporter and would love to see Klinger and Bailey get those 2 spots but depends on performance in the first couple of shield games.

  • Dummy4 on October 17, 2013, 20:31 GMT

    @ Shaggy076 ..... so what you are saying is "We should continue with the same team that was flogged in India and England ..... and then pick two more NSW Batsmen." Isn't that the definition of insanity?!?!?

    @ Ozcricketwriter ..... Clarke rarely does well when the "pressure is on". Just look at his recent second innings record ..... it's even worse when chasing runs.

  • Lewis on October 16, 2013, 4:08 GMT

    I like Finch as i am a Renegades fan but its wrong for guys to declare they are ready for test cricket if they haven't scored shield runs. Finch needs to put up shield runs and then talk about his test chances and that applies to Bailey as well. For this coming ashes i am predicing Smith and Khawaja who have both got off to great starts in the Ryobi will be key for us along with a fit Clarke and Watson as well. Key is early shield runs and watch out for Smith, Khawaja and Warner to get these as they have previously scored in shield whereas guys such as Bailey averaged 18 in shield last year and Finch was similar

  • Graham on October 16, 2013, 0:48 GMT

    Fleming_Mitch and Mary786 ; Your right Finch needs shield runs but so does Khawaja. Im not sure how you can claim Khawaja Ryobi cup form is superior to FInch is international form. Anyway if you are going on early season Ryobi cup form it seems to be between Cameron White and Max Klinger. I suspect Clarke, Watson, Smith and Rogers will be 4 batsman picked. The remaining two will come from eatly season shield form and there would be heaps of batsman in the reckoning including Bailey, Doolan, Klinger, Fergusson, C White, Finch, D Hussey, Warner, Cowan, Hughes, Burns and Khawaja any two of these could play.

  • Dummy4 on October 15, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    just to clarify, By presence I mean presence of tournament being just a formality as focus is on this pointless bilateral series. It will also lead to lack of certainty in selection, making them inconsistent. This is obvious by number of opening combinations being tried out. Player performances are devalued as the only time a change is made is when a player is injured our out of form. It means 60 people in Ryobi Cup will be competing for that one spot, devaluing player performances in domestic erena. Player performances will also be devalued as already media attention is always on T20 franchise leagues, clashing with bilateral series means very little focus is made on domestic cricket. This leads to intense media pressure on picking players based on IPL, BBL or this odi series, leading to flawed slections in future tournaments like The Ashes.

  • Ross on October 15, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    Finch needs shield runs, its as simple as that. I don't believe the top 5 will change from the 5th test in England… Rogers, Warner, Watson, Clarke, Smith. Haddin won't lose his spot before then, Harris, Siddle, Lyon in my mind are certain if fit, so I have one bat at 6 and a third seamer open. I like Khawaja at 6 and he is getting Ryobi runs and he needs to get these in shield as well. I would go for Cutting or Sayers for the 3rd seamers spot.

  • Mariam on October 15, 2013, 10:43 GMT

    Good luck to Finch but he has to get shield runs to get in the test side similar to what Khawaja, Rogers and Smith are doing. At this pint Smith and khawaja look like the best 2 young batsman and Finch has to follow and get shield runs, its as simple as that. Rogers, Warner, Watson, Clarke, Khawaja, Smith, Haddin, Johnson, Harris, Siddle, Lyon, Faulkner 12th man for the brisbane test. I am going on this with early Ryobi form as Khawaja has top scored in the last 2 games and should hopefully take this form into shield. I am not sure about Warner but he did get 70 in Durban and even though he is struggling at present i think he will come good for shield. Bowling sorts itself out as Johnson has to come in.

  • Dummy4 on October 15, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    why is this ODI series clashing with domestic tournaments i.e. first class in India and Ryobi cup in Australia. It diminishes the quality of cricket in the domestic erena, as international players aren't present. Not an ideal preparation for future players with a bigger gap between international and domestic cricket. Plus u have about 4-5 players bench warming for most of series when they were better off playing their respective domestic series. Not only that what message are u sending to the domestic players: that the international team is already selected and ur presence is just a formality. Player performances hence are devalued, because this team will hardly change. Making selections also becomes difficult, because lower domestic standard fails to effectively separate players for selection. There needs to be a separate window for these tournaments, otherwise quality of cricket will suffer.

  • Adrian on October 15, 2013, 10:21 GMT

    I think that George Bailey should be considered for tests before Aaron Finch, and Adam Voges too. But I don't think that Finch should be written off. It isn't just a matter of being able to last 4 days of batting (or 5 days) that makes one a good test cricketer - it is also the ability to handle the extra pressure of the big stage, against better players. Many players have been very good at first class cricket but failed in tests because they were good against weak opponents with less pressure. The likes of Michael Vaughan and Michael Clarke had terrible first class records but were "big time players", who were good when the pressure was on. This is why we often pick test players from the one day side. Bailey, Voges and Finch have all done much better in the ODI format than they did domestically, and in my opinion they should definitely be in contention for tests - but Mark Cosgrove, who isn't playing ODIs, should too.

  • Mariam on October 15, 2013, 10:14 GMT

    I agree that Finch is a good ODI and T20 player but he averaged low in shield last year so not test quality yet. I agree with the likes of Hayden, Ponting, Healy that we need to give our best young batsman(i.e Hughes,Khawaja, Warner, Smith) the chance to find their feat otherwise we willl never improve our batting.Smith and Khawaja in particular look very good in the early Ryobi games