Former Test batter Mark Waugh believes that national selectors could be forced into taking drastic action if Australian white-ball captain Aaron Finch does not rediscover his form ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Last week, Finch announced his retirement from ODI cricket following a horror run of form with the bat, having averaged 12.42 in the 50-over format this year.
The 35-year-old will still lead Australia at next month’s T20 World Cup campaign on home soil, with their first match scheduled against New Zealand at the SCG on Saturday, October 22.
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But before fighting for the coveted trophy, Australia will embark on a three-match tour of India before facing the West Indies and England in five T20s on home soil.
These warm-up fixtures should provide ample time for Finch, who led Australia to his maiden T20 World Cup title in the United Arab Emirates last year, to rediscover his mojo and bank some runs ahead of the tournament.
But despite receiving overwhelming support from the dressing room, Finch’s batting remains one of the biggest talking points ahead of Australia’s first T20 against India in Mohali.
The powerful right-hander’s most recent eight scores in international cricket are 5, 0, 5, 5, 1, 15, 0 and 0 — last week, he broke the all-time Australian record for most ODI ducks in a calendar year.
Even during last year’s T20 World Cup triumph in the sub-continent, Finch was far from his best with the bat, making 135 runs at 19.28 at a strike rate of 116.37.
Speaking to News Corp reporters at Kayo’s summer of cricket launch last week, Waugh declared that Finch should not be considered a lock for the T20 World Cup purely because of his reputation.
“I think he needs to get some runs,” he said.
“You don’t want to be going into this tournament with nothing under your belt and no confidence.
“I was sort of questioning his spot in the team in T20s after the World Cup and that Sri Lanka series.
“Selectors have gone down that path now, so they’ve got to give him all the support they can but at the end of the day, his job is to score runs.
“He’s opening the batting and yes, he’s a good captain, but even for his own importance, he’s going to want to make runs.
“He’s an important player so these eight games will tell us if he’s going to be a certain starter in every (World Cup) game, which we hope he is.”
Despite his recent slump in the 50-over format, Finch’s numbers in T20 cricket are considerably more reassuring — he has averaged 30.87 in nine knocks this year at a strike rate of 121.67, including two fifties.
The Victorian remains Australia’s highest run-scorer in the history of T20 internationals with 2855 at 35.24 and a strike rate of 145.29.
He is also Australia’s most successful captain in the game’s shortest format, leading his country in 35 wins and 27 defeats.
Speaking to reporters in a teleconference on Monday, Finch outlined how T20 cricket differs from the 50-over game for opening batters.
“In T20 cricket, I feel as though my form has been really good for quite a while now,” he said.
“If you separate the ODI form and the T20 form, then they’re totally different … obviously looking to be a bit more aggressive and take a few more risks upfront. You just have to go in really clear-minded.
“You’re expected but also prepared to take a decent amount of risk earlier in your innings than what you would like.
“It’s about working with what I know has been successful in the past and going back to basics.
“And watch the ball. At times, you can get a little bit caught up in trying to either hit the ball too hard or trying to shut down part of the ground.
“It’s just about reacting, rather than premeditating.”
Speaking to reporters at the SCG on Thursday morning, former roommate Glenn Maxwell hailed Finch as a dynamic on-field strategist.
“He’s brilliant with the whole strategy side, and the way he keeps the group nice and calm, and is able to communicate with the bowlers, it’s a very underrated thing in T20 cricket,” he said.
“You think it is all helter-skelter and go along with the plan, but he is really good tactically. Don’t discount his value as captain.
“Obviously it wasn’t the easiest time over the last little bit in one-day cricket, but his attitude has never changed and the professionalism he brought to the team was brilliant. We are very thankful, for when he took over the job it was a pretty tough and he took care of the group and got them out the other side.
“We are all really proud of the way he led us, and thankful to have played under him.”
The first T20 between Australia and India gets underway at Inderjit Singh Bindra Stadium on Tuesday evening, with the first ball scheduled for midnight AEST.