Fresh from his ODI retirement, Aaron Finch shouldn’t be considered a lock to lead Australia into the T20 World Cup next month, Mark Waugh says.
The former national selector believes the coming weeks could prove pivotal in Finch’s international career with the veteran opener reeling from a massive drop-off in his ODI form.
Finch publicly remains confident in his T20 abilities, but his recent numbers will inevitably cause concerns moving forward.
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Australia heads to India next week for three T20s before returning home to play two more series against the West Indies and England.
How Finch performs across those eight matches will determine whether Finch remains a lock for the T20 World Cup, or if selectors will be scrambling for a plan B.
“Look I think he needs to get some runs,” Waugh said at Kayo Sports’ official season launch. “You don’t want to be going into this tournament with nothing under your belt and no confidence.
“And his T20 cricket; I feel like it’s been okay, but I was sort of questioning him after the World Cup and that Sri Lanka series about his spot in the team in T20s.”
While Finch’s ODI form was of the biggest concern, ultimately leading to him pulling the pin on plans to play the 2023 50-over World Cup, his recent T20 performances have been largely middling.
At last year’s T20 World Cup, Finch made 135 runs at 19.28 while striking at 116.37.
Only Glenn Maxwell averaged less (16.00) inside Australia’s top seven, while each of Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Mitch Marsh and David Warner all struck at significantly higher rates.
Since then, Finch averaged 15.60 and struck at 91.76 in five home T20s against Sri Lanka before finding some form on the road.
He made a 55 in Pakistan in April, followed by scores of 61*, 24 and 29 against Sri Lanka in June.
Nonetheless, those scores were sandwiched by a disastrous run in 50-over cricket — Finch averaged 12.42 in 14 matches this year before announcing his retirement from the format.
His most recent eight scores in international cricket are 5, 0, 5, 5, 1, 15, 0 and 0.
The fact all those scores were in 50-over cricket won’t be enough to dispel fears that the lull will carry over into the 20-over game.
Only runs will rebuild the cricket public’s faith in Finch, as well as the confidence he has in himself.
“Selectors have gone down that path (of playing Finch in T20s) 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,” Waugh said.
“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.
“So I think he’s got eight games now to find a bit of form.”
Waugh said that quitting ODI cricket could be a weight off Finch’s shoulders, allowing him to play with more freedom.
He added: “It’s not an easy format to find your form in but, in another way, he can just sort of have a bit of a dash. And the consequences aren’t quite as severe because it’s 20 overs, so you’ve got enough to cover a few players that are a bit out of form.
“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.”
‘HE’S IN MY TEAM’
Meanwhile, Waugh said that he would change Australia’s World Cup-winning XI to accommodate big-hitting all-rounder Tim David.
Selectors will be hesitant to change the winning formula but the emergence of David in 2022 cannot be ignored.
The 26-year-old enjoyed a solid BBL campaign with the Hobart Hurricanes, and then a sizzling Pakistan Super League season before he was taken by the Mumbai Indians at the Indian Premier League auction for $A1.53 million.
That massive fee saw David, who was a relative unknown on the international stage, catch the eyes of the cricket world.
Since then, David delivered on his price tag in the IPL, averaging 37.20 while striking at a massive 216.27, while he’s also impressed playing franchise cricket in England and the Caribbean.
Waugh was a fan of David’s well before any of the aforementioned performances having pushed his name forward prior to last year’s T20 World Cup.
“The one player I thought was worth a gamble at least in the travelling squad was Tim David,” Waugh said ahead of the tournament.
Waugh is singing the same tune now. The only difference this time is that selectors have taken note and included David in the World Cup squad.
Waugh would go one step forward.
“I’ve got him in the team. I would start with him,” Waugh said.
“I’ve got him in which means another player would miss out who’d be unlucky but yeah, I’d like to see him in there.”
Calling up David for his Australia debut — he’s already played international cricket for Singapore — is one matter, but who he would replace is another entirely.
David bats in the middle-order which currently consists of Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade and Glenn Maxwell.
Asked who would come out, Waugh said: “Well you’ve got Stoinis or Steve Smith potentially.”
An alternative option could be to move Wade to open the batting, as he regularly does in the BBL, and drop Finch.
Although, that would likely be a last resort given Wade was outstanding as a finisher for Australia at the World Cup, while Finch’s captaincy is still an important asset.