September 3, 2013

Finch offers a glimpse into the future

Of all of the records in the game, T20's are the most breakable, because the format is the youngest and its limits are not yet in sight

Finch's 63-ball 156: a mad footnote in an ever-changing format © PA Photos

The evening after Aaron Finch's bravura knock at the Ageas Bowl, a commentator on the radio - and I can't remember who, or I'd name and shame - said that Finch had set "a record that might never be broken".

The reality is, it's a record that'll be lucky to survive five years. It might fall the next time there's a T20 international. Rarely has there been a record that has felt less permanent. That's not to impugn Finch's achievement. It's just that an innings like his is simply a hint at the future, a visionary glimpse of what batting in the most concentrated format might become. If a man can face 63 deliveries and hit 14 of them for sixes in 2013, what will the slugger of 2023 be capable of? Or the bruiser of 2030?

Of all of the records in the game, T20's are the most breakable, because the format is the youngest and it is also self-contained, suggestive of a future of specialisation. The limits are not yet in sight (although the maths is: perhaps we will talk one day of "perfect" overs, where each ball goes out of the ground, a feat not commonplace but certainly viable for the batter who dedicates his career to it).

In this way, T20 is a little like the very early days of the first-class game, with Chris Gayle as its WG, the man pushing against its limits, demonstrating the possible. Just as Grace invented modern batsmanship, so Gayle has been T20's conceptual force, hitting the ball further and more often than the game played before him had suggested anyone could. And just as Grace now exists in antiquity, his feats hard to measure against those of men who play in a different and newer world, so Gayle and Finch will one day seem as distant as the faces that stare out from a sepia photograph.

The Test match single-innings record offers a kind of blueprint as to how a mark matures and peaks. Andy Sandham made the first triple century, 325, in 1930, a record passed by Bradman within months, and which Wally Hammond in turn bettered within three years. Len Hutton's 364 came half a decade later, and stood for twenty years until Garry Sobers took it. His remained the mark for 35 years until Brian Lara, and then came a strange and brief interregnum, with Matthew Hayden's 380 against barely first-class opposition, and Lara's glorious response, the full point on his greatness, just months later. His 400 not out has towered for almost a decade, and probably is a record that will now never be beaten.

That's because time and changes in the way we live and play mitigate against it. Grace's career lasted 44 seasons, until he was 59 years old. In addition to all of the runs, he took 2809 wickets. These were feats of his era, his lifetime, that aren't repeatable now. Similarly, the records of Sachin Tendulkar and Lara (and Murali and Shane Warne) are products of circumstances that will most likely never be surpassed. Who else will play that number of Test matches and ODIs? Their brilliance will remain undimmed, but as the years roll by, they will become harder to understand or set in context.

In all likelihood, Mark Ramprakash will remain the last man to score 100 first-class hundreds. Times change, and our measures of excellence and greatness change with them.

Perhaps the biggest surprise during the rise of T20 is its lack of impact on 50-over batting. One day, Chris Gayle or Shikhar Dhawan or one of their heirs will go loco in the last days of that dying form and reset its boundaries, probably forever. T20 though, has a long time left, and we are only at the edges of what is possible there. Aaron Finch will be a mad footnote in its relentless progress.

Jon Hotten blogs here and tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • anton1234 on September 4, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    There are two kinds of sixes. As a spectator you just don't get the same thrill watching a 70 metre six as you do one which s is 100, 110, 120 or even 130 metres long.

    I completely agree all field restrictions should be completely removed from the T20 game. A captain should be able to place his fielders anywhere he likes.

    Do not bring the boundary ropes in. I have seen quite often where batters would have been caught had the boundary rip not been brought in 10 metres. Personally I would like to see a minimum 80 metre boundary, but I do realise lot of cricket grounds around the world couldn't accommodate 80 metres as stands would get in the way. But seriously, 65 metre boundaries is just silly. And if the authorities think by shortening the boundaries and getting lots of sixes is the way forward,they are mistaken. People will get tired of short sixes.

  • Mittaraghava on September 3, 2013, 15:50 GMT

    We are observing great strikesr of ball in the recent times and resulting in unimaginable individual and total scores.This is indeed to attract the crowds and making the game more entertaining.This is acceptable.But there is an element of manoeuvring done by the new rules such as feild restrictions such as 2 feilders outside the circle in first 6 overs and 5 feilders outside the circle in the remaining 14 overs.This is being partial to the batsmen ,hence these restrictions should be removed to see how good a striker the batsman is?and he will not get undue advantage and free runs.

  • ladycricfan on September 3, 2013, 12:52 GMT

    Six hitting should be limited. Six 6s/batsman or eleven 6s/team or both or something like that. Otherwise T20 will become a silly game.

  • ReverseSweepRhino on September 3, 2013, 12:32 GMT

    It is a statistical likelihood that earlier days will see more records broken, with the rules of play remaining constant. For example, if I continuously play, say Temple Run on my cellphone for a few days, it is most likely that I'll make and break several records in the first few hours, but then the frequency of new records will go down, despite the average score continuing to rise.

    However, when there is a sudden and drastic alteration in the rules of play, there can be drastic differences in the outcomes. If a new material is suddenly allowed in cricket bats, it might lead to 400+ individual scores in tests being a common occurrence. Conversely, there might be a change in allowances for bowling action (not likely, but in 10 years, who knows!) or the number of overs played, which leads to more lesser runs being scored.

    What I'm saying is, in a constantly evolving sport, unforeseen changes might make current records either irrelevant or impossible.

  • PadMarley on September 3, 2013, 12:14 GMT

    First of all I'm not fully convinced relating Finch's innigs in to this article. All quotes examples and names used are not about a onetime performance but about players who have built and collected something over a long career. [Well, Lara yes, but he is Lara lol]. Watching video foortages give enough context, since 80s we have watched so much cricket on the screen and we are used to judge something awesome just by looking at it. e.g. We can see the miracles Wasim, Murali, and Warnie created with the ball and even if the context change like it has now, we can watch and be wow about them, cos we dont see them happening with players now. But as the priorities have changed, some good players may not be able to reach statistics that these legends have produced, thats a fact!! But the quality of a shot irrespective of the format, and quality of a ball irrespective of the format will remain comparable and enjoyable cos we all have learnt to make educated judgements just by watching tv!

  • AA77 on September 3, 2013, 11:51 GMT

    The future started a good few years ago ..... The bar has been raised again and again in tournaments - the IPL is entering the realms of 'super quality' as outrageous feats of batmanship (gayle, Miller ..) and fieldsmanship (pollard, Bravo ..) are fairly regular occurrences -admittedly some duds in between. The UK is press is embarrassingly expose their ignorance when they make statements regrading established T20 specialists like Finch - he does after all CAPTAIN an IPL team.

  • dummy4fb on September 3, 2013, 11:38 GMT

    Truth, you cannot kill the holy grail of cricket... tests are far better...

  • dummy4fb on September 3, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    If this is the best you could come with on this subject, then I think you need to spend a bit more time refining your writing! On the one hand, you castigate someone for daring to state that Finch's innings may never be broken (I agree, a pretty poor assertion!) yet some of the other milestones you mention seem to be in the category of 'holy grail' statistics (eg: Mark Ramprakash! Warne's Test wickets, etc.) - make up your mind! Your flimsy logic that because times change & with it our preferences will somehow make the chance of emulating these milestones impossible is debatable at best & downright misleading at worst! Test cricket for the foreseeable future will remain the ultimate form of the game in most cricket-playing nations (India have arguable the most difficult task in making the format relevant to their audience) and thus, whilst admitting that Warne & Murali were once-in-a-generation players, there is just as much reason to believe that their records will fall one day too!

  • BackStreetBowler on September 3, 2013, 10:16 GMT

    Not to forget the oldest cricket record ever. 165 runs out of a total of 245 by Charles Bannerman in the first ever test match in 1877. It still is the highest percentage of the team's total runs scored (67.35%) in a completed innings.

  • bluefunk on September 3, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    You're fast becoming one of my favourite columnists here on Cricinfo, Jon. One would've thought the sort of introspective moment required to achieve analytical or poetic insight would be difficult to find within the relentless drumrolls and thunder of this sort of innings crafted more and more often these days by the likes of Finch, Gayle, Dhawan, McCullum, or Afridi... the effect is obviously rather different from that of an innings full of shots played with such austere, straight-batted perfection that the ball nevertheless speeds away to the boundary despite the lack of any evident effort. If one is like a Chopin nocturne, then the other perhaps more closely resembles a troop of Wagnerian valkyries, or maybe Black Sabbath or Rammstein on a particularly animated day. Both kinds have their own magic and magnetism though. :)

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