Forget Aaron Finch’s shoddy BBL season, the Victorian has driven Australia’s white-ball resurgence and remains clearly their best option as captain and opener in limited-overs cricket.
After averaging just 13 with the bat in the BBL, Finch has been pilloried by fans and media and had his Australian spot questioned by former Australian skipper Michael Clarke.
Speaking on Sky Sports Radio, Clarke claimed Finch was “in deep trouble”.
“He got dropped from Bangalore IPL, he’s had a horrible BBL,” Clarke said.
“His one-day form was good in Australia but I tell you, there’s some serious pressure on Finchy in short-form cricket as captain.”
The reality is that Finch’s form in franchise cricket has little relevance to the Australian side. If performing in these money-making leagues was the benchmark for international selection, then Glenn Maxwell’s constantly dire IPL efforts would prevent him from playing for Australia, despite his consistent T20I brilliance.
It is equivalent to saying an in-form Test cricketer should be dropped due to poor returns in the Sheffield Shield. In other words, it’s nonsense.
Finch is the main reason Australia have enjoyed a major resurgence in limited-overs cricket. Over the past two years, the Aussies have hauled themselves out of mediocrity to become one of the world’s best white-ball teams.
In that time, with Finch as skipper, Australia have a commanding limited-overs record of 32 wins and 16 losses. What makes that record vastly more impressive is Australia have barely played any matches at home – 75 per cent of those matches were overseas.
With Finch at the helm, the Aussies have become a white-ball force away from home. During the last two years, Finch has led Australia to five series victories away from home – in India (twice), England, South Africa and the UAE – and to a World Cup semi-final in England.
The 34-year-old is widely regarded as a calm, inspiring and tactically astute skipper. Australia’s limited-overs sides have looked happy, settled and united under his leadership. Finch has also led with the blade.
Over those past two years, as Australia have once again become a high-quality white-ball team, Finch’s form has been fantastic. In ODIs he’s piled up 1788 runs at 58, including six tons from 33 matches. Meanwhile, in T20Is, Finch has been dynamic at the top of the order, averaging 35 at a blistering strike rate of 147.
What stands out about Finch’s white-ball form over the past two years is his extraordinary consistency. In ODIs he has passed 50 in half of his innings, and in T20Is he has passed 35 in nearly two thirds of his innings.
Rarely has Finch failed in either format. This underlines the major growth in his game during his time as skipper, having been a boom-or-bust batsman earlier in his international career. In ODIs Finch is no longer as destructive as he once was, but he’s become the bedrock of the Australian line-up, regularly anchoring the innings to give others the freedom to play more expansively.
The consistently good platforms laid by Finch and his opening partner David Warner have made Australia an ODI team to be reckoned with once more.
In T20Is, meanwhile, Finch remains as destructive as ever. His ability to clatter pace in the power play, and also destroy spin in the middle overs, improves the balance of the Australian T20I batting line-up. That latter skill also means Australia have the luxury of tinkering with their batting order, due to Finch’s comfort in the middle order.
Not to mention the often overlooked value of having an opening combination that knows each other’s games intimately.
Finch and Warner first played together for Australia ten years ago, and have since opened together in nearly 100 limited-overs internationals.
That understanding, and collective experience, was on show in the 2019 World Cup as Finch and Warner combined for an incredible haul of 1154 runs at 61, including five tons from ten matches.
With the T20 World Cup just eight months away, now is not the time to be breaking up this dominant opening pair, let alone dropping Finch.
That’s not to say that one of Warner or Finch couldn’t potentially move to the middle order for that tournament. But that would only make sense if another Aussie player went ballistic at the top in this month’s five-match T20I series against New Zealand.
Unless that happens, Australia’s veteran opening pair should stay put for the World Cup.
Fortunately, Australia’s chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns has not been swayed by all the drivel about Finch’s franchise league form.
Hohns told media recently that what mattered most was Finch’s international performances.
“He’s been a little out of nick, or out of runs,” Hohns said.
“But on the international stage he’s very well credentialed and one of the best T20 players in the world.”
Spot on, Trevor.