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'He's a pretty good horse!': Everything Finch said about Smith, Warner struggles, England's Ashes call and Aussies' World Cup hopes

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Expert
6th October, 2021
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Australian men’s ICC T20 World Cup captain Aaron Finch has thrown his backing behind David Warner and Steve Smith for this month’s tournament despite their form struggles in the IPL.

At a preSs conference on Wednesday ahead of the team’s departure for Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Finch said the squad’s preparations hadn’t been ideal with leg spinner Adam Zampa having to resort to bowling at teenagers whilst others have had no game time at all in recent months.

With his own recovery from knee surgery progressing well though, Finch was confident that in-form players such as Glenn Maxwell would be able to shrug off Australia’s “underdog” reputation.

Currently ranked 7th in the world, Finch acknowledged that Australia’s inability to win the T20 World Cup before was more of a motivation than a hindrance as he prepared to join his squad in the Middle East for two warm up games ahead of the tournament.

This is what he had to say on the upcoming T20 World Cup, the Ashes and his own preparations, in his pre-tour press conference.

On his own preparation for the tour and World Cup following his knee surgery

“I’ve been battling for a couple of weeks and have been modified running in the first three, three and a half weeks and then the last couple of weeks have been fine,” explained Finch.

“It’s been building up gradually and I had probably my biggest session in terms of fielding, change of direction and all that stuff and with batting in involved as well. It’s gone as well as it could be. I had a meeting with the surgeon yesterday and he was really happy with where it’s at.”

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On the confirmation that the Ashes are going ahead and the back and forth on the negotiations

“It’s obviously a difficult situation for [England]. They’ve been dragged from pillar to post with their schedule over the last couple of months. They played a lot of Test cricket. So I can understand where they’re coming from, having families around, especially in a pandemic,” said Finch.

“Guys are on the road for a lot longer than what tours used to go – when you’re adding on quarantine at the start and potentially at the end, depending where you’re coming and going. So yeah, I sympathise fully with them. It is difficult. But it’s great to see Joe (Root) support that (decision) and that they’re going to come here.”

On whether he would say yes to the Ashes tour considering his knee surgery and the birth of his daughter in early September

“I think it’s up to the individual,” said Finch.

“For me personally, I would do it but we’ve been in a different situation to what England have been. They’ve played so much cricket over the last 18 months, two years, so I can understand their want and their need to have partners and families and as much comfort around as they can. That’s a really big issue,” Finch went on to explain.

“I guess what we’re going to find on the back of this, in my opinion, is there’s going to be a mental strain on a lot of people. Not just players, but administrators and coaching staff. People who’ve done so much work, spent so much time in isolation and in bubbles – it does make it really challenging. I’m glad that everyone’s come to a resolution and the quarantine conditions sound really positive.”

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On whether Warner is still the best choice to open with Finch considering Warner has been sitting in the stands at the IPL this season

“Yeah, absolutely,” Finch said.

“He’s one of the best players to have ever played the game for Australia. I’ve got no doubt that his preparation, while he would have loved to be playing for Hyderabad no doubt, I know that he’s still training away. He’ll be good to go.”

On where he feels Steve Smith fits in the batting order

“In the middle order, whether that’s anywhere from three to six,” responded Finch.

“I guess what we’re going to do is be really flexible through that middle part of the game. We’ve got a lot of power there. When you go Mitch Marsh, (Glenn) Maxwell, (Steve) Smith, (Marcus) Stonis, (Matthew) Wade – there’s a lot of power there. And there’s a lot of ways that we can go about it.

“So it’ll definitely be in the middle order. He’s a brilliant player of spin and he’s someone who can adapt to all situations in the game. We see that as a real asset for us.”

On reports that the middle order is unstable

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“Depends where it’s coming from. It doesn’t faze us really, what people think of our team or the way we go about it. We feel as though we’ve got a squad who can win the World Cup. We feel as though there’s enough experience there; there’s enough power there; there’s enough depth, if we structure up the sides slightly differently in our batting,” Finch said.

He added: “Then with our bowling we’ve got left arm, right arm, pace, guys who’ve got a lot of variations and then three brilliant spinners in our squad in (Ashton) Agar, (Adam) Zampa and (Mitchell) Swepson.”

On whether Nathan Coulter-Nile has put his hand up for late selection with a 4-14 bowling performance for the Mumbai Indians on Tuesday.

“He’s bowling nicely. I think it was at Sharjah and it looked like the wicket was on the low side which suits him and his bowling down to the ground – someone who smacks the wicket and gets a little bit of variable bounce,” responded Finch.

“We’ve seen over the last couple of IPL weeks that if you’re owning the stumps on wickets that are up and down slightly, that’s brought everyone into the game – medium pacers and spin are having a good impact, fast bowlers are doing their thing as well.

“There’s plenty of different ways you can look to structure up your side depending on where we play. I think having a look at the wicket in Abu Dhabi compared to Dubai’s, they’re totally different so I think that we’re going to have to look to be really proactive in that regard.”

On the question about whether the players have had enough preparation going into a World Cup

“Yeah, it’s a difficult one. I think there’s quite a few guys that have played in Bangladesh and the West Indies. Training indoors or training just in the nets, there’s no comparison, obviously, to game intensity,” said Finch.

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“So the two warm up games and the lead into the World Cup is going to be really crucial. We get out of quarantine, I think there’s three days of practice scheduled and then two warm up games. So they’re going to be really important to get guys up to speed as quickly as possible.

“But I’ve got a lot of confidence in the experience of the group. We’ve got guys who have come off long layoffs before, we’ve got guys who have come off injuries before.

“And it’s not really all that much different when you’re trying to get yourself up to speed quickly. I think that will play into their hands and might allow us to be a little bit fresher to be honest.”

On whether it was a deliberate decision to select a very experienced squad considering that they knew that the players would be coming into the World Cup without much preparation

“We still feel this is our best squad,” said Finch.

“There’s experience in all conditions around the world and we’ve got guys who have performed everywhere. So I think that helps. And that just doesn’t go from your preparation, it goes to your on field performance as well.

“So I think it all marries up and although guys might not be playing as much cricket as they would have liked. You’ve got guys like Stoinis who have a little niggle at the moment – but he’s still over there training and preparing in those conditions. And there’s still a lot of guys that are doing that. So I see that as a real positive.”

On whether he’ll be ready to play in the two warm up games ahead of the World Cup

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“Yeah, when I first had the surgery, the plan was probably that it would be touch and go for those games,” explained Finch.

“But over the last couple of weeks, my recovery has progressed really well. So yeah, it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll be fit and ready to go for them.

“Just in terms of the intensity that I’ve been able to train, the amount of accelerations, decelerations, putting load through my knee – that’s all really positive. So I’ve got no issues – I’ll be ready for them.”

On whether the wickets and grounds that will be used in the World Cup will require the team to consider strategies based on lower scores

“It depends,” said Finch. “I think Abu Dhabi showed that it’s still a really high scoring ground. I think we’re going to be playing on different wickets, I think they’ve tried to use as few wickets as possible for the IPL and then have fresh ones ready to go for the start of the World Cup.

“So I think that it’s important we don’t get sucked into having preconceived ideas on how the wickets are going to play. I think if we just get out there with a really open mind and assess and use our experience to communicate the type of surfaces really quickly, I think that will be really valuable as well.

“But the bar’s generally a little bit low scoring and Abu Dhabi, which is a big ground, has a chance for a lot of twos.
They’re probably a little bit more Australian-like in terms of a bit more pace in the wicket. So we’ll take it game by game, but we’ll have to be really flexible with the way that we pick our side and the way that we structure up depending on the conditions.”

On how he felt about being regarded as outsiders to win the World Cup

“The reality is we haven’t performed our best in World T20 so I think it’s a great opportunity. Like I said earlier, I feel as though our squad is good enough to win the World Cup and it does take a full squad to do that,” responded Finch.

“There’s going to be changes no doubt throughout the tournament so to be flexible with that, for guys to be flexible in the positions that they play, the roles that they play, will be really important.

“But honestly we don’t look too much into what other people are saying. We’re really confident in the squad that we’ve got.”

On whether the squad have been trying any different methods as part of their preparation given that they are much more spread out, and apart, than usual

“Not a huge amount different to be honest. I think guys are really professional with the way that they prepare themselves for each and every opponent,” replied Finch.

“I know the batters have been talking quite a bit. I’ve been speaking to Maxy and Davey – who are on the ground over there in Dubai – about the conditions, about what we can expect, what we think it might play like. But we’re not looking too much into it so we don’t have blinkers on when we go in.

“The guys are very diligent in the way that they go about it. No doubt that in the next week or so there will be a little bit more information coming back about opposition players that they’re seeing. Obviously our first game is against South Africa and there’s plenty of South Africans in the tournament and in the IPL at the moment. So there’s always information to share and that hasn’t changed too much.”

On Glenn Maxwell’s recent form where he’s scored three consecutive half centuries

“Yeah, he looks to be hitting the ball beautifully. He’s confident at the moment and his backswing looks really impressive. The thing I like is he’s taking games deeper and as we know he’s as disruptive as anyone in the world when he’s on, so I’m happy for how he’s going at the moment. He’s up and about too which is nice,” said Finch.

On whether the fact that Australia hasn’t won the T20 World Cup yet, is providing a little bit of extra motivation

“Yeah, absolutely. We understand that we haven’t played our best in these tournaments. We’ve had an interrupted preparation like everyone has over the last 18 months. We’re still very confident. We know that if we play our best, we are going to be hard to beat. We can match it with the best in the world. And we feel as though our support is well rounded,” he said.

“We’ve got options to play different combinations, different structures of the sides, so it’s definitely a motivation, but we’ve just got to be at our best at the right time.”

On whether Steve Smith is a certain starter given that the way he plays can be a bit “horses for courses”

“I think he showed over a long period of time that no matter what course he’s on, he’s still a pretty good horse,” replied Finch smiling.

“He is someone who adapts to situations really quickly. And his game speaks for itself. The 360 nature of his games is really suited I think to our middle order and yeah, he’s someone who will be in no doubt.”

On whether the tournament is a big chance for Glenn Maxwell to lead the way for Australia

“Yeah, definitely. He’s a world class player. When he’s on, he’s as destructive as anyone in the world. He’s someone who, in World Cups, has shown in the past whether T20 or 50 over, that he can win games for Australia off his own bat,” responded Finch.

“Just the nature of his game, when he’s firing his bowling is really important and he’s going to be really important to the structure of our team. His fielding is the best in the world and his batting is unbelievable.

“So he’s a really important cog in our team, so we’re really confident. We’re really happy with how he’s going. Having spoken to him the other day he’s working on a few things. So he’s confident, which is good.”

On whether the air has been cleared after the recent stories about Justin Langer’s style of management and confrontational style came out

“Yeah, absolutely. It was a really beneficial process to be able to give really strong feedback and to see the action that’s been taken on the back of that; that’s been really positive. I think just to be able to, for everyone to be able to get their feelings out and discuss it in a really open environment was really positive,” replied Finch.

“We’re steaming ahead. And the planning and preparation side of it behind the scenes of this has been really impressive over the last few weeks, so we’re confident going into this tournament.”

On how much he knows about how the rest of the summer will play out and whether players might miss some cricket because of quarantine and restrictions

“Yeah, Cricket Australia are working really hard behind the scenes to help facilitate families coming in and out of bubbles and hubs. It’s something that in a perfect world, there would just be open slather and the schedule could go forward as planned. But we understand how quick things can change. And hopefully people keep getting vaccinated and the country can open up fully,” he said.

“From my personal point of view, I’d love my wife and daughter to come straight into the Big Bash hub once we’re out of quarantine after the World Cup. We’re still just working on what that looks like, where that’s likely to be and what would the schedule look like.

“I know Cricket Australia have been working really hard behind the scenes, but I think we still have to just wait and see how things progress over the next probably two or three weeks.”

On what he thinks about the Afghanistan situation and the potential risk of games being boycotted, and whether he’s spoken to any other players about the topic

“I haven’t spoken to them about the situation,” Finch said. “I’ve spoken to Mohammad Nabi just about how he’s going and how his family is but that’s the extent I’ve spoken to them. It’s a really challenging time no doubt but we’re supportive of Cricket Australia’s position,” replied Finch.

On whether he personally would feel comfortable playing against Afghanistan

“That’s an ICC decision and like I said we’re fully supportive of the decision that Cricket Australia are making. We’re hopeful that thing’s can resolve themselves and Afghanistan can play a huge part in international cricket,” responded Finch.

“We’ve seen how important they are. The development of their game in Afghanistan no doubt it’s huge. They have brilliant players and they play such a big part in the Big Bash as well so yeah, we’ll just support Cricket Australia and the ICC on that.”

On his thoughts on the importance of the role that the slower bowlers will play in the World Cup for Australia, and especially how Adam Zampa has developed

“Yes, Zamps has been fantastic for us for a long time in both white ball formats. His game has improved, his leadership around the team has come on leaps and bounds. He’s someone who is really vocal around the team and his skill speaks for itself,” said Finch.

“We’ve seen the combination of him and Ashton Agar as a bowling partnership in T20 cricket in particular, probably over the last two and a half, three years. They’ve really been the backbone of our bowling attack with some changes around them.

“Kane Richardson as well, he’s someone who we look to especially towards the back end of the T20s – through the middle and the back in particular. He’s someone who has had a huge impact for us. But yeah, really impressive the way that they’ve continued to improve, particularly Zamps and Agar as a partnership has been really impressive.”

On Adam Zampa’s style of preparation that has seen him bowling to juniors on the north coast of New South Wales

“Yeah, he has and it’s really important for him that he keeps bowling. What he’s found over the last couple of years is when he has long layoffs, it takes him a little bit of time to get back into it so it was really important for him to find some facilities and just keep wheeling out his leggies and his variations,” explained Finch.

“He’s a rhythm bowler and when he’s on he is such a huge part of our team so yeah, it’s brilliant. I know he’s been doing work with the local physio up there to make sure his body is as good as it can be. Obviously bowling leg spin is very difficult on your shoulder in particular so I’ve got no doubt he’ll be cherry ripe and ready to go.”

On the rarity of being able to include all their pace bowlers and whether all of them will play in the same match given the types of wickets that will be used in the World Cup

“Like I said before, that’s going to be a really important conversation once we see the wickets and once we sort of assess the condition at each and every ground – whether you go three quicks and two spin or two and two with the all rounders. We’ll just have to wait and see,” explained Finch.

“But it’s great to have so many options with Kane Richardson as well – he’s been really important to the structure of our sides. So the quick options that we’ve got, we’re really comfortable with.

“Mitch Marsh’s bowling has been really important as well as Stoinis when he’s played. He provides a lot of flexibility through the middle and particularly at the backend. Mitch bowled beautifully in the West Indies as well, picking up important wickets at crucial times and bowled some really difficult overs.

“But they’re really good conversations that we’re able to have now that we’ve got a full quota to pick from.”

On how strange it is that this pace attack have rarely, if ever, been available for an Australian T20 side at the same time

“I think that’s just the way international cricket goes,” said Finch. “Obviously there are some long summers. Some big winter tours where they’re playing three formats of the game and that can be really difficult.

“They are not robots – they need time to recharge and refresh, get their bodies right and sort out some niggles. I totally understand that. We still got back to number one in the world not too long ago. So it’s still great to have them available for this tournament,” said Finch.

On whether the fact that the IPL is going on right now will give the Indian players an advantage or if the Pakistan side will be in better shape considering they are so used to playing in the UAE

“I think in a perfect world you’d love to be playing and you’d love to have a really good lead up into the tournament – playing in those conditions which a lot of the Indian players are,” said Finhc.

“But a lot of international players are as well. I don’t think it’ll make too much difference to be honest and the way that teams prepare and turn up ready to go is going to be the most important thing.

“Pakistan – we know how dangerous they are. On their day they’re as good as anyone in the world. They’ve got pace, they’ve got spin and they can fire up with the bat. And knowing those conditions so well, they’ll be a real challenge as well.”

On whether the Australian side have used data and analytics any differently in the lead up to this World Cup

“When you just look at raw numbers, there can be a lot of numbers there that are quite irrelevant at times. The guys behind the scenes at Cricket Australia and the coaches dive in really deep into them to give them some relevance to venues, to opposition, to your own team, to specific parts on wickets and things like that,” explained Finch.

“So by the time they get to me they’ve been through the wringer and are a little bit more simplified and I suppose ready to use or ready to discuss wisely.

“But there’s so much stuff that goes on behind the scenes – if you saw all the data it would blow your mind! It certainly blows my mind and I don’t understand a lot of it until it gets a little bit more context.”

Australia begin their T20 World Cup campaign against South Africa on 23rd October in Abu Dhabi.

Australia T20 World Cup Squad
Aaron Finch (c) (Victoria), Ashton Agar (Western Australia), Pat Cummins (vc) (New South Wales), Josh Hazlewood (New South Wales), Josh Inglis (Western Australia), Mitchell Marsh (Western Australia), Glenn Maxwell (Victoria), Kane Richardson (South Australia), Steve Smith (New South Wales), Mitchell Starc (New South Wales), Marcus Stoinis (Western Australia), Mitchell Swepson (Queensland), Matthew Wade (Tasmania), David Warner (New South Wales), Adam Zampa (New South Wales)

Travelling reserves
Dan Christian (New South Wales), Nathan Ellis (Tasmania), Daniel Sams (New South Wales)

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