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Aaron Finch is in a rut, and faces a big week in his ODI career
If runs haven't returned by then, the ODIs against England after T20 World Cup would be the natural point for a new captain to start bedding in
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It is a decent sign that a player is struggling for form when a single shot is analysed as a potential turning point: will that be the stroke that changes things for them?
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When Aaron Finch drove Richard Ngarava wide of mid-off in the third over of the third ODI between Australia and Zimbabwe in Townsville, it was, indeed, a very nice stroke. There was a decent stride, his weight came forward into the ball, it found the middle of the bat, and it was timed nicely.
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But it wasn't - at least on Saturday - a turning point for the Australia limited-overs captain. Facing Ngarava's next over, he fenced at a delivery outside off stump and was caught at second slip. It was the third time in the series he had fallen to Ngarava's left-arm pace after dragging a ball on to his stumps in the opening match, and edging a lifting delivery to slip in the second.
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It left Finch with a tally of 21 runs in three innings for the series, and it extended what is increasingly looking like a trend. In 2022, Finch has now made 164 runs in 11 ODI innings - 62 of them in one knock against Sri Lanka - with six single-figure scores in that stretch - a big enough sample size for it to be a legitimate talking point, and a looming problem for Australia.
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"When I get a bit heavy there, it starts to affect the rest of my game," Finch had said ahead of the final ODI against Zimbabwe. "I feel as though that's coming along really well. The rewards will be there very soon; just hasn't happened just yet.
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"I know that I've got the full support of the players and the coaching and selection staff, so I'm working hard on my game. It just hasn't quite flowed yet. It just comes down to giving yourself a bit of time, and hopefully getting a big one shortly."
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There is no chance of anything dramatic happening in the short term. Australia have named their T20 World Cup squad, which Finch will captain. But it is worthwhile separating the two white-ball formats. While Finch's ODI returns are in a rut, he has managed to maintain his T20I output at a better level with 247 runs at 30.87 this year, albeit his strike rate of 121.67 is his lowest of any 12-month period.
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It means there is a crucial week for Finch coming up against New Zealand in Cairns in terms of what might happen after the T20 World Cup. Unsurprisingly, he has had support from across the board - team-mates, national selector and head coach - over his position, but another difficult series will keep the issue bubbling away.
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It has the makings a tough examination as well, with New Zealand being able to pick a pace attack from Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry.
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"Across his career, it's ebbed and flowed. His movement patterns sometimes early in his innings are compromised, whether that's through perceived pressure that he puts on himself or what the bowler does," head coach Andrew McDonald told reporters after the Zimbabwe series.
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"We are working through it. He's working hard on his game… he's continuing to work on the same things he always works on. It's about getting a start and maximising that start. At the moment he hasn't quite got to that stage but we feel he can, hence he's still around the group and still a valued member as our captain.
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"It will be about clearing his mind, clearing his thoughts, going out there and looking to be positive. When he's positive, his feet move a lot better than potentially when he's doubting. That's every batsman's case when they feel they haven't got the runs they want.
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"They search for a little bit more, and sometimes that can take away from just responding to what is coming down... so if we can get a clear mind, I think there's an opportunity for him to have an impact in that New Zealand series."
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If runs haven't returned by then, the ODI series against England after the T20 World Cup - which has nothing much riding on it due to not being part of the Super League - would be the natural point to make a change that would leave time for a new captain to bed in.
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In that scenario, Finch holding the T20 World Cup aloft on home soil on November 13 would be the ideal way to sign off, although sport offers no promises of a perfect ending.
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There may be parallels with how Eoin Morgan's career came to an abrupt end earlier this year after consecutive ducks against Netherlands. Like Finch, Morgan's captaincy continued to be held in huge regard, and it is unlikely he would have been pushed, but Morgan woke a couple of days before England's final game in that series and knew his race was run.
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Whether it plays out that way for Finch remains to be seen.
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Australia are not short of potential top-order replacements who have made strong cases of late, which may yet be a factor. Travis Head, absent from the Zimbabwe and New Zealand series on paternity leave, has averaged 62 in ODIs this year; Ben McDermott made 55 and 104 against Pakistan; and Marnus Labuschagne looks a better fit as a top-three player than in a middle-order role.
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However, replacing Finch as captain would be the tougher decision, although Alex Carey and Mitchell Marsh would likely be contenders. But if someone with experience was wanted to get through the World Cup, Steven Smith's name could be considered too.
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Finch has turned things around before, not least ahead of the 2019 ODI World Cup, when a run of low scores against India became one of his best years. For now, the final stages of Finch's outstanding international career remain in his hands, and a big score or two in Cairns will shift the conversation.
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Another lean series, however, and his path will become a trickier to plot.
Cre: espncricinfo
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Balakrishnan Anvi's profile picture
Haha
 · Reply · 5 months ago  
Kahlon Dabeet's profile picture
Kahlon Dabeet
His eyesight is waning with age like everyone else . Can't play it if you can't see it !
Haha
 · Reply · 5 months ago  
Kumar Bhavish's profile picture
Kumar Bhavish
I am a big fan of Aaron Finch. He has had a stellar white ball career and has played some wonderful knocks over the years ...
 View more
Haha
 · Reply · 5 months ago  
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