Finn not bowed by rapid ascent
A mere ten days ago, Steven Finn was back in his flat in London, quietly preparing for the start of Middlesex's pre-season training, and mulling over the advances he had made in a satisfactory winter with the England Lions and the Performance Programme. Now, almost without warning, he has been whisked away to Chittagong, thrown into a three-day warm-up to test his international readiness, and charged with the task of wrapping up a Test match on one of the flattest wickets he can ever have encountered in his 20-year life.
It's quite some change, but it's a change that Finn is taking in his somewhat sizeable stride. His figures to date, 2 for 79 from 25 overs across two innings, speak of a disciplined but unspectacular start, but there's been no aspect of his international baptism that has overawed him in the slightest. Not even a malfunctioning air-conditioning unit in the press briefing room (which emitted a loud machine-gun-like rattle right in the middle of one of his answers) could upset his equilibrium.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to come over here," he said. "By no means did I think, while lying in bed in my flat, that I'd be playing Test cricket in ten days' time. But I played in the warm-up game, came out of it with no inhibitions, and said I wanted to give it my all. This is something I've been aiming towards since I was seven or eight. Every young kid wants to play Test cricket."
Finn's rise to prominence has been rapid and potentially vertigo-inducing, especially for a man of his height. When the England Lions were playing Pakistan in the UAE back in February, he wasn't even in the starting XI for those matches, so most of his three-week stint was spent working on technical aspects of his game in the nets.
The last time England's head coach, Andy Flower, had seen him in action had been in South Africa before Christmas, but the promise of pace, height and bounce on Bangladesh's lifeless surfaces proved irresistible. "I'm well aware myself what my game is, and what I can do," said Finn. "Andy saw me bowl in Pretoria, and he's got recommendations, I'd imagine, from the A team. All I know is I'm here, and I want to take the opportunity with both hands.
"I was sat down and they said this is what we think you bring to the party - pace and bounce, obviously, and now I've proved I can bowl a bit of reverse swing as well. It's almost ego-boosting to be told you're going to be playing Test cricket, and this is what we see you doing. But by no means have they set me any targets for being a world-beater. I'm 20 years old, in my first Test, and I'm just learning on the job."
For all that his Test baptism has involved a lot of hard yakka on an unresponsive surface, Finn's experiences in Bangladesh have been infinitely preferable to the fate that awaited him back home. "At this precise moment, I'd probably be getting woken up by an army officer in Exeter," he said. "We went to Dubai for our pre-season last year but didn't do very well, so this year Angus [Fraser, director of cricket] told us we were going to boot camp. I'd probably be in a forest in a tent right now."
Talking of boot camps, that was the memorable preparation that Australia's cricketers were put through ahead of the last Ashes series Down Under in 2006-07, and Finn's name is already sneaking into the frame for a berth in the first Test at Brisbane in November. But sensibly enough, the man himself played down any such talk, especially in the middle of a Test match.
"By no means am I targeting an Ashes tour," he said. "It would be lovely to be there, but there's a lot of hard work between now and then. First of all, I have to prove I can be consistent over the course of a seven-month county season. So far I've only been performing quite well for a month now. I felt I'd had an enjoyable winter and an opportunity to show what I can do, and beyond that, I just wanted to go back to Middlesex, take the season as it came, get picked and take my wickets as a process of my hard work this winter."
Suddenly those short-term aspirations have been transformed for Finn. A starring role on the final day in Chittagong could yet be a springboard to even greater things.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo. Go to http://twitter.com/miller_cricket to follow him on Twitter through the England tour of Bangladesh.