Finch underlines red-ball credentials
Tagged as a white-ball specialist, Aaron Finch has the numbers to shake off that perception
Aaron Pereira with Dave Middleton
9 April 2018, 02:53 PM AEST
Aaron Finch embarks today for a winter of limited-overs cricket abroad but still harbours ambitions to pull on the Baggy Green cap, eager to shake an outdated reputation he's a white-ball specialist.
Finch, who flew out for India to link up with Kings XI Punjab at the Indian Premier League after getting married last weekend, will then head to the UK to play T20 cricket for Surrey.
He could yet be named as captain of Australia's limited-overs squads, with series to be played in England and Zimbabwe in June-July, but said the lure of a Test berth remained his driving ambition.
And while many will scoff as an initial reaction, it's worth highlighting that since the winter of 2014 when he first took up a county contract, the Victorian averages 49.27 in first-class cricket.
That includes more than 1600 runs in Australia at 50.59, while he's averaging an impressive 46.62 in England's county system, all amid limited opportunities around white-ball commitments.
Finch accepts he had a horror run in Sheffield Shield cricket between 2011 and 2014, where in three seasons he scored 511 runs at 16.48, and a reputation that still persists was formed.
"I started off really well in Shield cricket when I first came in, I was 23, got a few runs and then for some reason out of the blue, I just started getting lbw every innings," Finch told The Howie Games podcast.
"The harder I worked at getting that right, the worse it got. I was trying so hard and practising so well that I think that I was putting too much time and effort into that. I'd get out into the middle but I would've already batted for 40 minutes before the game and spent so much mental energy worrying about not getting lbw, by the time you get out there you've already worked yourself into a state.
"My record suffered a lot through that period, probably supported everyone's opinion that I can't play the red ball, my defence isn't good enough, and that's fine, but in the last three years I think I've averaged around 48 in Australia, in England in county cricket, where you get some difficult conditions and wickets, the ball swings a lot."
With Australia's Test side in a state of flux following the ball-tampering related suspensions handed out to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, Finch is hoping he can push his case for a coveted Test spot ahead of a home summer featuring visits from India and Sri Lanka.
"It'd be huge (to play Test cricket), that's why I still train as hard as I do," Finch said.
"Four-day cricket I've come to the realisation that everyone gets out, regardless if it's a duck or for 200, everyone gets out eventually in the game of cricket so I've embraced that, but don't be content with getting out."
Like all Australians, Finch was shocked by the events in Cape Town, especially given his close friendship with Warner, who had been a regular opening partner in Australian gold.
"I've known Dave for 15 or 16 years and become very good friends with him ... it's been really difficult to watch," Finch said.
"Obviously they've all taken responsibility for what's happened and that's a huge thing, to be able to stand up in front of the world media and say, 'Yes, what we did was wrong but please forgive us'.
"They are great people, all three of them. They made a poor judgement call, there is no doubt about that, and if they could take those fifteen minutes back, no doubt they would. I don't think they should be hung, drawn and quartered for one mistake, that they've made on the cricket field."
While those ramifications will play out for Australia for some time yet, Finch will continue working on his own game, with two key figures central to his red-ball resurgence.
Finch has turned to Andrew McDonald, coach of the Victorian Bushrangers and Melbourne Renegades, and former Australia batting coach Michael Di Venuto, under whom he'll play for at Surrey this winter.
"Andrew McDonald has been a huge influence on my career, he really simplifies things down and gets to the root of a problem bloody quick, which is a really good skill and quality to have," he said.
"He's been through his ups and downs as a professional cricketer, people who have been through it themselves and have dealt with it are often the people who are best placed to deal with it, they can draw on their own experiences.
"My mindset changed the most when he said, 'If you get caught at first slip or mid-off, you're still out'. It took me back because it was the first time I'd heard a coach not be worried about an outcome – if you're bowled or caught at fine leg hooking first-ball you're still out. "
Di Venuto, who Finch says "was unbelievable for me", reinforced that messaging with a similar approach that has helped him find consistency in his methods.
"If I felt like I could walk out and take a guy on first ball over the top, go for it," the 31-year-old says of the Di Venuto message.
"That's the strongest part of your game so do it, if you get out trying to defend and you nick one off then you'd be kicking yourself saying, 'if I had put some more pressure on him...'"
Finch wed long-term partner Amy Griffiths last weekend, delaying his arrival in India for his ninth IPL season, where he was bought by the Kings XI Punjab for A$1.2M after two seasons with the now defunct Gujarat Lions.
He'll once again team up with former teammate Brad Hodge as head coach, Finch earning his highest-ever contract in the tournament.
"I thought I'd get around $500,000 to $600,000, that would be around the mark. Because I'd had a really good previous IPL, I was confident I'd get picked up because Hodgey showed interest.
"My name came out and my live stream dropped out, Kings XI put their name up to start it, and I was relieved because I thought at least I'm going.
"The bidding went on and on and then (when the price tag was confirmed) there was just silence in the household, and we thought 'Well, that escalated quickly'. It was pretty surreal."
Finch is likely to slot into the final XI when Kings XI take on Virat Kohli and the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday.