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April 6, 2010
England's newest pace prospect, Steven Finn, believes that the nagging accuracy of Glenn McGrath is the ideal role-model as he seeks to solidify his career after a stellar rise to prominence this winter, and is looking for an early burst of wickets for Middlesex to "put his name in the hat" for further selection this summer.
Finn made his Test debut against Bangladesh at Chittagong in March and impressed with pace and, crucially, the bounce that makes him a tantalising option for England come the Ashes tour later this year. At 6'8" Finn could be the man to fill the 'enforcer' role that has eluded England since Steve Harmison fell out of favour, but the man himself is determined to master the basics first and foremost.
"I certainly can put on more pace and it's something I'm looking to do but I'm not going to force it," he said. "You have to be clever and learn when to try and bowl quick. McGrath is someone I've always idolised, the metronomic control of line and length is something all fast bowlers strive to achieve, everyone wants to combine pace with that control which McGrath had. In the early part of his career he had that pace and in the later part he needed to learn how to be smarter with the ball, the way he adapted throughout his career is something I really respect."
Finn's calm maturity has stood him in good stead in a remarkable month. He had barely been in Bangladesh for a week when he leapfrogged Amjal Shahzad and Liam Plunkett to replace Graham Onions in the Test side, and with no bowling coach to consult following Ottis Gibson's return to the Caribbean, he instead sought advice from Stuart Broad - a relative veteran with 26 caps.
"As a bowling unit we knew what we wanted to achieve," said Finn. "Stuart Broad was the senior man having played the most Tests and because he's played in most conditions he was a good bank of knowledge for us younger guys. It was good to talk to him about being a young bowler. His first Test was in Sri Lanka with [Kumar] Sangakkara and [Mahela] Jayawardene smashing it everywhere, he had to go through it and deal with it, and he passed his experience on to me."
It will probably be the last time Finn finds himself involved with an England side without a bowling coach, with Gibson's replacement due to be appointed soon, but he believes it's up to the players themselves to take responsibility for their own games.
"I don't think you can be reliant on any coach because once you step over the white line you can't say 'oh coach what do you reckon?' You have to learn how to respond to different situations in the game," he said. "It's important that you have someone to refer to, rather than having someone to impose stuff over you. You have to make the decisions on your game and not anyone else because you have to deal with it. Fast bowling is a very simple thing, we're perceived as simple blokes and when you're bowling it's a very simple thing. If you hit the top of off more often than not you'll be in the game."
It's the kind of uncluttered approach that would please the modest, hard-working outlook of England's current set-up, but Finn isn't presuming he's a permanent fixture in the national side just yet.
"I'm just taking it on a game-by-game basis and as long as I keep performing, that's all I can do," he said. "I'm not looking too far ahead in terms of what I want to achieve or setting goals. As long as Middlesex are winning games and I'm taking wickets, that means everything is working out."
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?