Australian cricket legend Ricky Ponting has thrown his support behind Aaron Finch, offering the national white-ball captain some words of wisdom as he approaches the twilight of his playing career.
Finch, who is nearing his 36th birthday, will be integral to Australia’s T20 World Cup campaign later this year as captain but the Victorian veteran has failed to silence his critics as he has struggled for consistency over the past 18 months.
The powerful right-hander has averaged 17.55 in ODI cricket since the start of 2021, passing 45 just once in his last nine matches.
Watch Australia v Zimbabwe. Every ODI Live & Exclusive to Fox Sports on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Even during last year’s unforgettable T20 World Cup triumph in the United Arab Emirates, Finch ended the tournament with a series of low scores – 9 (11) against the West Indies, a second-ball duck against Pakistan in the semi-final and 5 (7) against New Zealand in the decider.
Finch’s horror luck continued during Sunday’s five-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in Townsville, registering 15 before he chopped on while facing seamer Richard Ngarava in the eighth over.
The Australian skipper, who had been dropped earlier in the over, tentatively prodded at a length delivery outside off stump, redirecting the Kookaburra off his inside edge into the pegs.
“His season does not start in spectacular fashion,” Fox Cricket commentator Dan Ginnane said in commentary.
“The played on or the LBW has been Aaron Finch’s undoing a few times.”
Maxi goes berserk in wild nine-ball blitz; Green shines as Aussies crush cricket minnows
’I don’t know what to say’: Warner saved in ‘bizarre’ moment despite walk-off
It was hoped the Zimbabwe series would help Finch get some runs under his belt before a busy home summer of cricket, but he now only has two chances to rediscover some form before Australia faces world No. 1 ranked New Zealand next month.
Finch has cracked 19 centuries in Australian colours since making his international debut in 2011 and will open the batting alongside David Warner regardless of how the next couple of months play out. Finch and Warner have combined for more than 10,000 runs at the top of the order over the past decade.
But Finch’s lack of runs are undeniably cause for concern with two major tournaments on the horizon.
Ponting, who went through a similar slump towards the end of his playing career, sympathised with the Australian captain, recommending he “stop worrying” about getting out and focus on what he does best – smacking the ball to all corners.
“I don’t know where he’s at, headspace wise now,” Ponting told CODE Sports.
“But anyone that’s played the game as a batter has been there at some stage in their career. I know at the back-end of my career, when runs weren’t flowing quite as freely, the fact I was just trying too hard to be perfect and do everything right, I wasn’t allowing myself to free up and play the way I’ve always played.
“If I could give him any advice it’s, ‘Stop worrying about being perfect, stop worrying about getting out, and start thinking about scoring runs first’. If you think about scoring runs you’ll score runs, if you think about not getting out, you’ll get out. That’s certainly my experience in the game anyway.
“But he’s crucial for them. If he’s captain and scoring runs, and in good for leading into a World Cup, I’m sure the Australian team will be in a lot better place.”
Finch, Australia’s 12th-highest run-scorer in ODI history, could step away from international cricket after next year’s World Cup in India, but the talented batter isn’t thinking about retirement just yet.
“It’s something I haven’t given too much thought to in that regard because I don’t want to think about it,” he told The Australian this week.
“For one thing, everyone says you are a long time retired and you have to make the most of it while you can.”
The second ODI between Australia and Zimbabwe gets underway at Riverway Stadium on Wednesday, with the first ball scheduled for 9.40am AEST.
Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been ruled out of the white-ball series after suffering an ankle injury, with Perth Scorchers teammate Josh Inglis replacing him in the squad.
“He’s been playing some good white-ball cricket recently,” Australian batter Steve Smith told reporters in Townsville on Tuesday morning.
“The way we set up our team the other day with bulk all-rounders, he was a big part of that.
“It’s disappointing for Mitch, but there’s some pretty important stuff coming up.
“He was a big part of our T20 World Cup campaign last year and I’m sure there’s big plans for him this year.
“The priority is to get him right for that.”