If Australia was serious about picking its best team for the third T20 against New Zealand, Aaron Finch would not be in it.
From his last 26 knocks in T20 cricket stretching back to the Indian Premier League, he is averaging 15 with a strike-rate of 110. And no half centuries.
The man himself would concede this is not the Finch that rose to the captaincy of the nation’s white ball teams. Nor the player that struck fears into the minds of bowlers across the globe.
He’s hurting. But more importantly, the team he leads is hurting.
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Luckily for the Victorian, Australia is not playing to win at all costs right now. So will surely survive the axe.
Instead, their objectives are balanced between short-term success and preparing for a World Cup in India later this year. For the latter reason, the captain is likely to be given more opportunities. If this was a major tournament, you’d think his campaign would be over.
Finch has batted 11 times since January 1 and is yet to pass 20. His 12 from 14 balls in Dunedin was not just a failure in quantity, but an uncharacteristic disaster in method too. At a time when his country required a meaty power play, Finch struggled badly. It put pressure on his teammates and most agonisingly, himself.
The paradox with Finch is that everyone wants him to do well. Players speak of his leadership qualities, his ability to read the game and the fact he’s simply a very good bloke to share a dressing room with. They also know his best is superb.
But as Mark Waugh was at pains to note during Fox Cricket’s coverage, captaincy and character are distant priorities compared to the currency of runs.
And time is running out, according to the former one-day international opener, whose twin brother was dropped 12 months out from the 2003 World Cup in South Africa due to form and despite a strong leadership record.
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“His job is to score runs. It doesn’t matter, there’s a lot of players who can captain. There’s Matthew Wade, there’s Mitch Marsh, there’s Moises Henriques,” Waugh said on Fox Cricket.
“His primary job is to score runs, particularly when you’re opening. That’s a key position in T20 cricket and we’ve got a lot of good players on the periphery to open.
“He’ll know it. No batsman is immune from being dropped when you’re not scoring runs. Doesn’t matter if you’re captain or not.
“I’m not saying it will happen but no one’s irreplaceable. There’s no way the selectors will want to drop him but his destiny is in his own hands.”
There will be those who defend Finch to the hilt too. They will argue he is not the reason Australia is 2-0 down in the series. And they would be right. The bowlers got belted and other batsmen – aside from Marcus Stoinis – are struggling. It’s far more nuanced than ‘It’s all YOUR fault,’ as it always is.
But his issues are the most concerning for two reasons: He’s the captain and he’s an opening batsman. In both respects he’s charged with leading from the front. The runs column has never been more barren for him.
Complicating matters for the selectors is their overabundance of top order players to select from for the World Cup. In New Zealand alone there is Josh Phillipe, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade and D’Arcy Short. All can open. All would argue they’ve done enough to deserve to bat at the top.
In Australia, there is Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Alex Carey and David Warner. And what about Sean Marsh? All can bat top three. It’s a perennial problem on these shores: How to pick a well balanced T20 team with specialists in each position? The Aussies are yet to nail it.
There have been six T20 World Cups and Australia is yet to win one. They’ve reached just one final. It’s an unusual blot on an otherwise boastful record in big tournaments.
Of course there is a strong sense of deja vu with Finch’s run of outs. In 2019, he struggled badly before the 50-over World Cup in England.
The selectors backed him and he repaid their faith, averaging 50 and making seventh most runs for the tournament. But these circumstances two years on are more precarious.
While there is a semblance of time in one-day cricket to find form, chew up balls at the crease and regain confidence, the current T20 climate requires openers to essentially become baseball sluggers, especially in batsman-friendly conditions.
Martin Guptill will fail more times than he succeeds, but his knock on Thursday set up a huge score. Instead of going into his shell, Finch – when he inevitably has another opportunity – must be prepared to fail in order to succeed. That will require great courage given his age the talent breathing down his neck to take his spot.
If it comes off one in five attempts, that’s a good ratio in a high risk, high reward format. The issue for Finch, Andrew McDonald and Justin Langer watching from Perth, is that he’s failed 26 times in a row in the shortest format in the IPL, BBL and now across the ditch.
And with every one of those disappointments, Australia’s planning for the T20 World Cup gets a little more complicated.