Heading into the Commonwealth Bank Series against Sri Lanka, cricket fans across the country have been talking about one man: Aaron Finch.
The Victorian pocket-rocket has taken his game to new heights in 2012-13, and is keen for the hot run to continue at the MCG on Friday when he makes his ODI debut.
The opening batsman started the season with a bang, blasting 154 against the Queensland Bulls, before scoring 140 in Victoria’s record run chase at North Sydney Oval against New South Wales.
With a Ryobi One-Day Cup-topping 497 runs at 99.4, Finch believes his rapid rise in form is due to an improved mindset.
“In the past, I’ve been guilty of getting Victoria into good positions with the bat and then getting out and leaving it up to somebody else”.
Fortunately for his side, Finch has taken a different approach to his batting this season in a bid to put his name on the national radar. His determination to embrace the batting responsibility has seen the Bushrangers already seal a place in the Ryobi Cup Final.
“Fifties and sixties, they’re OK, but they’re kind of nothing scores from an opener.”
“When I do get in and get that chance, it’s important that I really drive home the advantage of the side.”
When quizzed on his stunning summer thus far, Finch credited a constant stream of competitive cricket as the main factor behind his change in fortunes. An extended period at the Cricket Australia Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, as well as stints in the IPL and the Sri Lankan Premier League has allowed Finch to take his game to the next level.
“This year there was no clear off-season where I wasn’t playing and I was sitting around just hitting balls on the bowling machine and facing guys in the nets. It was actually competitive competition, which counts for a lot of things.”
Finch has also hailed intimate discussions with Andrew McDonald and Brad Hodge as another reason behind his newfound focus. Simple chats about cricket itself have allowed the aggressive batsman to learn more about the game than by simply playing it.
“Watching cricket and talking about it, you learn so much. You hear so many different ideas and you get other people’s perspective.”
“Sitting around talking about batting with Brad Hodge, there aren’t many better people to talk about it with.”
In a cruel twist of fate, Finch parted ways with his close mates prior to the second instalment of the KFC T20 Big Bash League.
The trio had played for the Melbourne Renegades in BBL|01, but with Hodge moving to cross-town rivals the Stars, and McDonald heading to the Adelaide Strikers, the weight of the Renegades fell squarely on Finch’s broad shoulders.
The loss of the talented duo could have had a negative impact on the rising star, but Finch used their departures as a stepping stone in his development as a future leader.
“It was probably good for myself to try and form my own identity as a player. I know I’ve probably been in the shadows of Hodgy (Brad Hodge) for a long time…”
“I was leading the team by myself for the first time. I didn’t have those two to bounce ideas off, or to try and come up with a squad with Helmo (Simon Helmut).”
Whatever nerves he might have held going into the BBL soon disappeared, as Finch led his side to the top of the rankings and a guaranteed home semi-final.
It took just one game for the incumbent skipper to realise he was the right man for the job, with Finch smashing an unbeaten 111 to steer his side to a six-wicket win against the Stars.
“The way that I thought through that innings I was really pleased with. The way that the guys played around me…the guys stepped up and played their role, which is so crucial in T20.”
After a disappointing inaugural BBL campaign, Finch has been thrilled with the turn-around from the competition’s surprise packets. The inclusion of players such as Ben Rohrer and Nathan Rimmington from other states has been a massive boost for the Renegades, whose CLT20 experience has been a welcomed addition.
“I think that the way they’ve turned up with their attitude and the way we’ve trained and played together has been a real positive and I think everyone’s enjoyed their time a lot.”
The next step in Finch’s career will be improved consistency in red ball cricket. Despite leading the way in ODI and T20 cricket, Finch has struggled to maintain a regular spot in the Bushrangers’ Bupa Sheffield Shield squad.
And Finch sees the upcoming one-day series as the perfect opportunity to stake his claim as a permanent fixture in the Australian team. With tours of India and England coming up, Finch realises the importance of taking any opportunity given to him.
“Mickey (Arthur) spoke to us all earlier in the week about places becoming available…if you do well, you can really put your hand up and be in the team for a while.”
And if his recent form is anything to go by, the 26-year-old is going to be in the Australian system for a very long time indeed. The only thing that can get in his way now is the Etihad Stadium roof.
First Posted 11 January, 2013 11:44AM AEST