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Australia v New Zealand 2022

Aaron Finch deserves to be remembered as one of Australia’s greatest ODI destroyers

Finch ODI
by Shashwat Kumar 4 minute read

Aaron Finch’s recent struggles in international cricket have been well-documented. But as his 50-over career winds down, it is worth remembering him as one of Australia’s greatest ODI openers, writes Shashwat Kumar.

On Saturday, Finch announced that he would be retiring from 50-over cricket, bringing to an end a career that spanned nine and a half years. It was not a decision that took people by surprise, considering how out of sync the Australia captain has looked over the past few months.

In 2022, Finch registered five ducks in ODI cricket, the highest in a calendar year by an Australian men’s batter in the format. He has also struggled against high-quality seam bowling, with Trent Boult causing him all sorts of problems during the ongoing series between Australia and New Zealand. Technical deficiencies that he earlier used to tide over have been mercilessly exposed. And the run-making, which often carried an aura of dominance, have slipped into the periphery.

That, though, should not necessarily be the image associated with him forever. Like most international athletes, his form has waned and his reflexes have slowed down. But when he was at his peak, he was a cricketer who batted as if he owned the place.

As things stand, only three Australia men’s batters, namely David Warner, Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting have scored more ODI hundreds than Finch’s 17. Those 17 tons have come in 141 innings, equating to a three-figure score roughly every 8.2 innings, which for an aggressive opener, is not a shabby tally at all.

Finch has maintained an excellent strike rate throughout his career. Among Australia men’s batters to have scored a minimum of 2,000 runs, his strike rate is the sixth best, behind Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson and Warner. Among these batters, only Symonds, Warner and Watson have a better average than Finch, indicating that the Australia captain’s belligerence shone through quite frequently.

His best quality, though, was his ability to seize the big moments, especially against strong opposition. At the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, Finch produced a superb hundred in front of a packed MCG against England, setting the tone for a victorious campaign. Four years later at the iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground, he scored another magnificent ton against England.

The right-handed batter relished playing England. He plundered 1,354 across 29 innings, notching up seven centuries (the most by an Australian male cricketer) at an average of 48.35 and a strike rate of 92.48. His average is also the fifth-best of any Australian men’s batter to have scored a minimum of 500 runs against England in ODI cricket. Under the same criteria (min 500 runs scored), Finch’s strike rate against England is the third-best, only behind Gilchrist and Maxwell.

Apart from the numbers, Finch’s emergence came at a time when Australia were looking for someone to replace Watson at the top of the order. The Aussies had, in fact, struggled for a stable opening pair since Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden retired. So, when Finch joined hands with Warner, they had one less thing to worry about. They blossomed as a partnership and played a pivotal role in Australia winning the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup and reaching the semi-final at the 2019 edition. Finch and Warner also have the fourth-best partnership tally among Australian men’s cricketers in ODI cricket.

As skipper too, he excelled, winning 30 of the 54 ODIs that he captained. He also had to shepherd Australia through the tumultuous post-Sandpaper Gate era. Finch fared relatively well, ensuring that they have a solid core as they build towards next year’s ODI World Cup.

Thus, it can be argued that Finch’s contributions to Australian cricket are perhaps as substantial as any over the past decade. Not only was he able to nail down a spot at the top of the order, he did so with the aggression and belligerence Australia usually associates itself with. In recent times, that has not materialised as often as Australia or Finch would have liked. His highest score in his last seven ODI innings is 15 and he has crossed 15 only thrice in 13 knocks this year. These numbers, as you might have guessed, are not befitting of a top-quality opener or the sort of player Finch was. So, the decision to draw a line in the sand and say that he no longer wants to continue playing 50-over cricket is most probably the right call.

It is also a shame that his troubles against all kinds of bowling might be remembered more than his sparkling hundreds or the destruction he was capable of causing. That, however, does not mean we can’t remember what he stood for and the impact he had on Australian cricket, especially when the big moments came calling. Of that, there is absolutely no doubt.

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