Aaron Finch reveals secrets behind pinch-hitting success
Aaron Finch became the highest individual scorer in T20 Internationals when he smashed 156 from 63 balls against England back in August this year. He also started the tour of India with a bang having hit 89 in the one-off T20 and 72 in the first ODI.
For any cricketer to first find a base in international cricket, it is important to reach that certain level of comfort at which the player can relax. For Australian batsmen Aaron Finch, the moment came when he smashed Steven Finn's first ball over suqare leg for six at the Rose Bowl in Southampton. That incident put Finch in a relaxed mood as he simply got better at his game.
Taking to ESPNcricinfo about his swashbuckling 156 against England in August, Finch maintained that it was not a planned innings and he was just playing his natural game.
"I didn't go out with a plan to do that, it was just one of those innings where I saw the ball well, and felt like I made a really good decision," he said.
"I wanted to go out there and dominate as you do in T20 and get the side off to a good start, but it just unfolded pretty quickly and I couldn't really rein it in after a while, I just kept going. One thing I've focused on is sticking to my game and my plans, and it was nice to have the support of the coaches and the captain to play my natural game."
Of course a place in the Australian side did not come to Finch on a platter. In his initial days he was lacking in confidence as the national colours continued to elude him. He was considered a prodigious talent since his early years, but converting it into runs became a struggle for him, be it for Victoria or Australia. A first-class average of 29.56 from 33 games is baffling when one considers how he dismantled India's bowling attack during the first ODI in Pune on October 13. Finch, however, is mindful of his below-par average in domestic cricket but he doesn't let it affect his play at the international level.
"That's been an issue for a while obviously and I'd be stupid if I wasn't aware of it, but I feel like I can play well at international level now," said Finch.
"It's not a technical thing, just a mental thing with the four-day game. I feel as though I've made some good improvements in the last 12 months to be able to deal with that, and hopefully take that game to another level. To play Test cricket is my ultimate goal still, I definitely haven't lost that ambition. I feel as though I'm now in a really good space to do that," he added.
A couple of factors have helped Finch in finding the space that he has got. First is the appointment of Darren Lehmann as coach of Australia, who gives simple advice and puts confidence in him which the 26-year-old Victorian carries out into the middle. The second reason is the endorsement of T20 and stand-in ODI captain George Bailey which has added to Finch's sense of self-belief.
"Boof's just encouraged me to play my natural game and really supported me with that, which obviously gives you a lot of confidence going into a series," Finch said of Lehmann, who is not with the team on the tour of India, though his influence is no less.
"Just not being bothered by things as well. I think at other times I've been a bit scared to get out, worried about the consequences instead of just batting, and that wears you down after a little while and plays on your mind. It was really refreshing and great to have the support that I've been picked for a reason, how I play and the runs I'd scored. So he's said continue doing that, continue to back yourself. If it comes off, it comes off and if it doesn't, better luck next time."
Finch also credited tips he got from Virender Sehwag and Mahela Jayawardene. The way he took on R Ashwin in the first two games in India, shows that he has been putting their advice to good use.
"Spending time with great players from the subcontinent is invaluable I think. I spent two years with Virender Sehwag and Mahela Jayawardene, and I spoke to them a lot about batting in India and they were fantastic. Mahela averages 50 in Test cricket over many years for a reason. Just the different ideas they have on batting over there is quite unusual to how we're brought up, on pretty good wickets generally. You can't buy that kind of experience, to spend two months with those guys just training and talking cricket, different techniques and game plans you need to adjust to how India play cricket," he said.
With no place taken for granted in the Australian side, Finch knows that he cannot rest on his laurels. He is also ready for a stint back in domestic cricket to have a shot at playing Test cricket.
"That's the great thing about the upcoming Ashes and this India series - if guys score runs they're going to be in the team, and I don't think Boof's made any secret of that," Finch flatly declared.
"He's going to pick guys in form, regardless of history and perception. They want players in form, and whoever that is, hopefully I come back and get a couple of big hundreds in the Shield, and who knows. It's not that far away I don't think. I feel as though my game is ready to play well in four-day cricket and would be ready if I did get a gig in the Test team."
Finch has played 13 ODIs and 9 T20Is for Australia since making his international debut in 2011. This recent run of form could be his coming of age as a cricketer and will possibly set him on the path to be destined for greater things.