Hon­esty the key as Finch builds a new-era Aus­tralia

Cap­tain says squad cul­ture has changed and he is thrilled to be plan­ning for 2023 World Cup

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport First T20 Internatio­nal - By Tim Wig­more

In The Test, the doc­u­men­tary fol­low­ing the Aus­tralian cricket team, Aaron Finch ad­mits to wak­ing up “in a cold sweat,” about fac­ing Jasprit Bum­rah, In­dia’s open­ing bowler.

In an­other scene, Finch is at home. Slouch­ing in a chair, with his Test ca­reer al­most cer­tainly over and his one-day cap­taincy – and place – pre­car­i­ous, Finch be­moans his lack of form to his wife, wor­ry­ing how he can get out of this rut.

Most re­veal­ing about these mo­ments is less that they hap­pened – in­ter­na­tional sport is a deeply in­se­cure world – than that we ever got to see them. Finch, like all the play­ers, had a veto over any footage of him that ap­peared. Yet he was happy for his mo­ments of vul­ner­a­bil­ity to be pored over, show­ing a char­ac­ter who is the an­tithe­sis to the car­i­ca­ture of the snarling, brutish Aus­tralian cap­tain.

“It was just me, mate,” Finch says ahead of Aus­tralia’s first in­ter­na­tional since March. “It was just – that’s who I am, that’s what I was go­ing through at the time.

“It would have been nice if I would go through that as a 22-yearold player. Go­ing through it at 31 or 32 was a bit more dif­fi­cult, but it wasn’t about try­ing to be more vul­ner­a­ble than any other time. It was just about be­ing hon­est. When things aren’t go­ing well, they’re not go­ing well. Ev­ery­one can see it so there’s no point try­ing to hide be­hind any­thing.”

It is a mi­cro­cosm of Finch’s wider ap­proach. Since as­sum­ing Aus­tralia’s white-ball cap­taincy two years ago, when Tim Paine’s brief stint as one-day cap­tain ended, Finch has at­tempted to build a team cul­ture that pri­ori­tises hon­esty.

“You have to be hon­est with your­self and ev­ery­one around you,” Finch says. “Hon­esty and vul­ner­a­bil­ity are im­por­tant be­cause un­til you’re vul­ner­a­ble you prob­a­bly can’t get in­side to keep on un­lock­ing things. Be­cause if you al­ways put the walls up, there’s only so much they can get through, and re­ally help you. Yes, hon­esty is a huge one in our group.”

Aus­tralia’s creed af­ter Cape Town – “elite hon­esty, learn­ing, mate­ship, hu­mil­ity and pro­fes­sion­al­ism” – has been much mocked. How, the com­mon re­frain has gone, can these five val­ues help with the busi­ness of win­ning cricket matches?

Finch takes a dif­fer­ent view. “It keeps you ac­count­able and it keeps you on the right track. The sim­ple an­swer is, yes, I think it does, be

cause the val­ues are laid out. And it gives ev­ery­one own­er­ship over that, it makes peo­ple prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit more aware of them, day in, day out, be­cause they are writ­ten around the place quite a bit. I think it just gives peo­ple a real clar­ity. There’s a bit more to it than those words but it comes back to just be­ing as good peo­ple as we can.”

Finch con­tends that Aus­tralian cricket has changed in the past two years. “I feel as though the cul­ture is re­ally good. We have a lot of re­spect for the game and each other and our op­po­si­tion, so we’ve got a lot of great peo­ple in our group – not just play­ers but coach­ing staff and peo­ple be­hind the scenes. There’s a lot of great peo­ple that are pulling in the one di­rec­tion.”

Un­for­tu­nately that num­ber has dropped af­ter Covid-19 led Cricket Aus­tralia to make swinge­ing cuts in the sup­port staff, with bat­ting coach Graeme Hick among those made re­dun­dant. Yet Finch has al­ready iden­ti­fied what he hopes will be the end of his jour­ney: the 2023 World Cup in In­dia. This se­ries,

Aus­tralia’s first ap­pear­ance in the ODI Su­per League, is a chance to en­sure that, af­ter sleep­walk­ing into the 2019 World Cup, they can build over the whole World Cup cy­cle.

“We have to nail down a par­tic­u­lar strat­egy and sort of a one-day phi­los­o­phy al­most, be­cause we were a lit­tle bit late in do­ing that into the 2019 World Cup – ob­vi­ously there was a bit of a change of coaches and lead­er­ship.

“We’ve been re­ally proac­tive in do­ing that this time and look­ing for­ward and see­ing where we think one-day cricket will be and see­ing where we think that our cricket will be com­pared to that. Then come up with the best way to go about it and then find the best per­son­nel.”

Two years since be­ing thrust into the role, the en­thu­si­asm of Aus­tralia’s ac­ci­den­tal cap­tain is undimmed. “It’s bloody ex­cit­ing to do all this plan­ning and see where we get to.”

Fresh look: Aaron Finch says his side ‘re­spect’ the game

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