ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Finch drops hint as opening debate rages
Skipper says Australia are yet to settle on their opening duo for the World Cup, but indicates he won't bat down the order
15 April 2019, 03:11 PM AEST
Skipper Aaron Finch says he’s yet to decide which of David Warner and Usman Khawaja will open the batting with him at the World Cup, and he’s given a strong indication that both Khawaja and Steve Smith will be part of Australia’s XI for their tournament opener on June 1.
Finch said today he’d favour a left-handed/right-handed opening partnership for Australia’s Cup defence, indicating one of Warner and Khawaja will open and the other will bat at No.3.
Finch and Warner have formed one of Australia's most successful first-wicket partnerships and were the openers in the 2015 World Cup triumph on home soil, but Khawaja and Finch were also a dominant force together on the recent tours of India and Pakistan.
It leaves Finch and coach Justin Langer with a difficult decision to make, although the skipper hinted moving himself down the order is unlikely.
“There’s going to be plenty to think about over the next 6-8 weeks … to try and find our best combination and the best way to structure up our side,” Finch said after Australia announced their 15-man squad today.
“Davey’s record at the top is unbelievable and Uzzie’s been in great nick recently. Whichever way we go, there’s scope to mix and match that as we go through the tournament. We’ll work that out, there’s nothing set in stone right now.
“I think all three of us could (bat at No.3). I’ve probably got the least experience out of all three of us in that position in limited-overs cricket. It’s something we’ll juggle and tinker with. I think a left-right combination is probably the way we’ll go, it just depends on which left-hander (opens).”
When asked if Khawaja would bat at No.3 if Warner returns to the opening spot, Finch replied: “I’d say yes, I’d imagine yes, but that’s still a long way out”.
“He’s a class player and the form that he’s been in over the last six months in one-day cricket has been unbelievable,” he added of Khawaja.
“He’s done everything he can, he’s got big runs and big hundreds in important games and when a series has been on the line, so that’s a huge thing. And when he gets in, he’s so hard to stop as well.”
When asked if Smith will be part of Australia’s best XI given he’s been slow to return to his absolute best form since recent elbow surgery, Finch replied: “I’ll say yes; the short answer is yes”.
“All of that stuff is up for debate,” he added. “Now that the squad’s been picked and we’ve got 15 to pick from, it makes things a lot clearer and we can start mapping that stuff out. When you’re still looking at 18 or 19 players to find the 11, I think it’s a lot tougher.”
Finch’s backing of Khawaja and Smith could spell bad news for Shaun Marsh, who has batted in Australia’s top four with great success over the past 12 months.
While Finch wasn’t a part of the selection panel that picked the 15-man squad, the ultimate responsibility for the make-up of the batting order rests with him as the team’s skipper.
It means the final decision on who opens the batting at the World Cup will be his, and he added it’s rare for coach, captain and selectors not to be closely aligned on selection matters.
“If you push something hard enough, you can convince them,” he said.
“Nine times out of 10, maybe 49 out of 50, everyone’s on a same page or a very similar page. And you’re generally tossing up whether to play an extra bowler or an extra allrounder, something like that.
“We’re generally all on the same page anyway, but at times it’s important to have good healthy debate. I think that keeps everyone accountable and it keeps everyone on their toes.”
Australia's World Cup fixtures
May 25: (warm-up) England v Australia, Southampton
May 27: (warm-up) Australia v Sri Lanka, Southampton
June 9: India v Australia, The Oval
June 12: Australia v Pakistan, Taunton
June 15: Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval
June 20: Australia v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge
June 25: England v Australia, Lord's
July 9: Semi-Final 1, Old Trafford
July 11: Semi-Final 2, Edgbaston
July 14: Final, Lord's
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE