Australia can’t win World Cup unless Finch makes toughest call of career to retire, effective immediately

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England’s shock loss to Ireland means Australia’s T20 World Cup fate is, remarkably, back in their own hands.

But there remains a glaringly obvious barrier to back to back world crowns – and unfortunately, its name is Aaron Finch.

Finch’s decline has been obvious for months now, and just as it forced him to retire abruptly from ODI cricket last month, so too should it see the end of his time in charge of the shortest format too, effective immediately.

His painful innings against Sri Lanka on Tuesday evening, completely bereft of ideas against an unassuming pace attack and barely able to hit the ball off the square in 42 balls of agony, has made his position at the top of the order untenable.

The fact remains Australia still need to beat England at the MCG on Friday night to progress to the semi finals – a venue that has already earned a reputation this tournament for being fast bowler-friendly.

Already, Ireland’s quicks ran amok to dismantle the Poms’ highly regarded top order after both India and Pakistan made hay with pace, swing and seam, particularly with the new ball.

For Finch to take on England as an opener at the ‘G wouldn’t just be a lamb to the slaughter; it would be like that scene in Jurassic Park where the cow gets put in the velociraptor paddock.

>> READ: ‘This can’t go on’ – Finch’s painful form hits new low

The very best Finch or any Australian could hope for is another tortured knock like against Sri Lanka, where he can’t even find a way to get himself out. And there’s slim to no chance of getting away with it like in Perth against a far superior opposition in England now in the last-chance saloon themselves.

Yes, he has made a couple of 50s this summer, one against the West Indies in a lead-up series and another in a warm-up game against India; but the challenge is substantially tougher here, and the stakes infinitely higher.

In last seven outings since returning to Australia his average is 23.66 at a strike rate which has dropped below a run-a-ball to 97.26. 

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“I think it was an anomaly in my career, it was just one of those days,” Finch told reporters at the MCG on Thursday. “I still feel like I’m playing pretty well.

“I still feel confident in my game, 100 per cent. I don’t feel anymore pressure than I ever have, the only pressure is the expectation you put on yourself.

“Everyone’s got their opinion, that’s fine. I’ve got no issue with what people’s personal opinions are, I don’t read or listen to any of it.”

There is no room in Australia’s middle order for Finch to drop himself down as he did against the Windies in a lead-in match, either: Marcus Stoinis’ record half-century against Sri Lanka has removed any doubt as to his place in the team, and Glenn Maxwell and Tim David are power hitters whose best can change games and shape Australia’s World Cup dream.

Maxwell has hinted at his destructive potential with cameos in both his games this tournament to date, while David did likewise before not being required against Sri Lanka. And even if one of them were to make way for an ‘anchor’ role-player in the middle order, Steve Smith would be a far more logical replacement than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with Finch.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 22: Aaron Finch of Australia leaves the field after being dismissed by Mitchell Santner of New Zealand during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup match between Australia and New Zealand at Sydney Cricket Ground on October 22, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The reality is, unfortunately, there is no one in the Australian team that can or should be omitted or moved around to accommodate Finch transitioning down the order; and a little-known all-rounder by the name of Cameron Green whose presence would instantly fix a number of other problems with the line-up.

While he’s hardly a front-line quick in limited overs cricket, Green’s inclusion would ensure another fast-bowling option in the team, empowering selectors to make a tough call on Pat Cummins or even Mitchell Starc should conditions require Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa to both play, without compromising the batting order.

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Agar’s miserly bowling performance against Sri Lanka, as well as numerous other excellent displays in recent years, should put a focus on trying to squeeze him into the team at every possible opportunity: Green’s presence in the team would at least provide enough confidence in fast-bowling options to pick Agar at eight as a frontline bowler, and leave out one of Cummins or Starc.

In addition, Green’s explosiveness at the top of the order is arguably just what Australia need at the moment, with neither Warner or Finch willing (or possibly able) to do what Finn Allen did to the Aussies at the SCG and take the fight to the bowling attack from ball one.

Finch’s struggles aren’t just limited to his batting, either: he doesn’t bowl, and he is fast becoming a liability in the field, too. A regulation miss in the covers to give up a four off the last ball of Sri Lanka’s innings in Perth was the prime example in that regard.

Green covers both those bases, while also being capable of fireworks with the bat AND being the ideal candidate to fix Australia’s problematic team balance.

The reality, though, is that to drop the captain halfway through the tournament would instantly destabilise the team. It runs the risk of dividing the camp between Finch supporters and backers of whoever would take up the mantle at short notice – most likely Matthew Wade, Cummins or even David Warner – all of which must be avoided at all costs in a campaign with margins as razor-thin as this one.

Aaron Finch of Australia bats.

Aaron Finch of Australia bats. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Which is why it is imperative that Finch come to this decision himself, and either retire or choose to drop himself for the England game, and probably the rest of the World Cup too.

To do this would be the hardest decision of Finch’s captaincy tenure, and as brutal a sacrifice as any made by a cricket skipper in recent memory. But it’s also the right one for the sake of the team – and would rubber-stamp him as one of the most selfless cricketers to have ever played the game for Australia.

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To make an AFL comparison, Collingwood player Simon Prestigiacomo became a legend of his club by making himself unavailable for selection in the 2010 grand final.

The decision cost him a chance at a premiership medal, but instantly won undying respect from his club and the football world – Collingwood still honour him to his day by awarding his number 35 to their highest draft pick of that year.

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Finch has been an incredible servant to Australian cricket. He is in exalted company as a winner of both T20 and ODI World Cups – even the great Virat Kohli hasn’t achieved that. His status as an all-time great for his country in limited-overs cricket is already assured – unlike Prestigiacomo, he doesn’t have to weigh up costing himself a chance at glory he has already captured.

It would be a testament to Finch’s qualities as a leader to recognise, and act on, the fact that right now he is holding the Australian team back to a concerning degree.

The ultimate team-first call doesn’t even mean he would have no impact on the Australian set-up moving forward – he would still be capable of leading from the sidelines, driving tactics, making recommendations at drinks breaks, and essentially becoming a core member of the coaching staff.

Just because he wouldn’t be part of the XI doesn’t mean he couldn’t influence how the rest of the World Cup pans out – and it would be impossible to have Finch in this role if he had been dropped against his wishes.

The only possible way for Australia to navigate this tournament, and come out of it covered in surprise glory again, is for Finch to fall on his sword.

Any other method of solving the current problem facing the captain and his team will lead to nothing but disaster.

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