A couple of years ago, during the Indian Premier League (IPL), Aaron Finch walked into a Gujarat Lions team-meeting and volunteered to bat in the middle order to ensure the dynamic opening pair of Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith remained intact at the top of the order.
At the time, Finch was neither out of form, nor was he short of runs; in fact, he was amongst the leading scorers after the mid-point of the IPL season. Batting at No 5 in the next couple of matches, Finch remained unbeaten and scored 22 and 31 respectively to lead the Lions to victory. At the time, the transition into the middle order seemed like a successful move and it even prompted the Australian national selectors to earmark him as a middle-order batsman.
However, on Tuesday in a T20 match against Zimbabwe, Finch showed the cricketing world and the Australian cricket’s decision-makers why he belongs to the opening spot with a blistering 172 from 76 deliveries with 16 fours and 10 sixes.
Finch’s stunning knock was the highest score recorded by an individual in a T20 international (T20I) and second highest ever in T20 cricket, just three short of Chris Gayle’s record of 175 not-out playing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the 2013 edition of the IPL.
But rather than his score, it is in the manner in which Finch thumped the Zimbabwe bowlers from the outset that should ensure the Australian selectors persist with him as an opening batsman. Interestingly, despite Finch being tried in the middle order in 2016, it wasn’t until the start of this year that Australia experimented with him down the order. It was a peculiar decision given Finch had averaged 43.1 as an opener with eight fifties and a century.
The rationale behind the decision was that the selectors and the coaching staff felt David Warner, Darcy Short and Chris Lynn had to be squeezed in the top order, forcing Finch to be the scapegoat. At the time Australia did not realise that they had done injustice to a player that had become so successful at the top.
The other theory was that Finch was regarded as a far more superior player of spin bowling compared to the others, a reputation he had enhanced with a series of fine performances in the IPL and in the sub-continent. In ODI cricket, he averages close to 50 against India in their own backyard and a vicious assault against the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin was a sign of his confidence against the slow bowlers.
Also, the absence of Steve Smith in the one-day game and the mindset of mirroring England’s ODI approach forced the newly-appointed coach Justin Langer to try Finch at No 5 during the recent 5-0 whitewash.
At the time Langer had stated, Finch, like he did during the 2016 IPL, had volunteered to bat at No 5 to resolve Australia’s spin problems during the middle overs. Unfortunately, the two outings lower down the order yielded poor outcomes, forcing Langer to reinstate the dynamic opener to the top. Back in his favourite spot, Finch conjured up a majestic century.
Australia had made the mistake of misjudging Finch and pushed him in uncharted waters instead of exploring other options. They had misread the situations from the past where Finch had been successful against spin bowlers only after he had been well set. It was a trial and error, but Finch‘s innings showed that he belongs to the top of the order and his place should not be tinkered with.
Most importantly, Finch knows to build an innings as an opener. He knows the bowlers to target and the fielding restrictions allow him to hit the spinners over the top.
Each batsman in world cricket has his own game and style. Finch has spent the last decade enhancing his game against the new ball and then cashing in during the middle overs to lay the foundations for his team in domestic and international cricket.
Undoubtedly, it is Finch’s ‘team first’ mentality that has resulted in him being flipped around the batting order. His record in T20 cricket and ODI speaks volumes about his ability as an opener. Over the past six months, he has been the guinea pig, but as he showcased in Zimbabwe that he is one of Australia‘s most important top-order batsman.
Finch’s camaraderie and his dedication to the team has to be credited, but it is time for the selectors and the coaching staff to give him the respect he deserves and persist with him at the top of the order. Every time they think about tinkering with the system, it might be a good idea to look at his bewildering knock of 172 against Zimbabwe. It is perfect indication on why he should never been dumped down the order.
Updated Date: Jul 04, 2018 12:55 PM