The Aaron Finch conundrum

Australia's trouble at the top x 2

If you look at T20Is, it would be hard to argue that Aaron Finch isn’t an all-time great.

T20I leading scorers

There are others with more runs and bigger averages, but his strike rate is very impressive in terms of the highest scorers ever. It would be hard to look at this and think he's not one of the best players ever.

Ofcourse T20Is aren't always the best measure of your worth.

Top run scorers in T20 cricket

The quality of the opposition can be low, and the matches are often played spasmodically. But if you look at the all-time major T20 run scorers, well, Finch is even higher at number four.

And if you look at it by strike rate, again, he's right at the good end of all this.

Top T20 run scorers of all time

Finch has been a fantastic player in ODI and failed at Tests, but in the early part of T20, he's been one of the best the game has ever seen. And so Australia is lucky to have him opening the batting.

Except he is 35, and about to be 36. And while that is not an automatic rule that says you are finished, his form isn't great. If you look at this, you can see that outside a very poor first year, and a massive slump in 2015, the last three years all fall into this cluster. It's not terrible if these are your worst years.

Finch’s T20 years

It's about the level of a replacement-level opener, and being that much of his cricket is higher level, he's still ok. It's just not the Aaron Finch of before.

Ofcourse the Finch of before was incredible. From 2016 until the end of 2019 he was vibing like he was riding a mecha-unicorn through the Milky Way. Most of these years from this area.

And when you look at this period, you can see him up here in the glory part; he's wedged between AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle.

2016-2020 T20 scorers

That is serious company, and as good as his odd year had been before, this was really where Finch cemented himself as something else entirely.

And then this is him in the last three years. I mean, this isn't good.

Last 3 years T20

There are so many good players around here around him, like this is Virat Kohli right next to him. So it's a thing.

But Finch is one thing Kohli isn't, the current captain of his nation, and not only that but the person who lead his team to the last World Cup. So while India can drop Kohli - however unlikely that might be - Australia can't drop Finch. Well I suppose it is possible, but probably only if the entire thing is falling apart.

But as it currently stands, I do wonder where Finch would rate on The Australian batting chart. There are some obvious ones that he is not better than, like David Warner and Glenn Maxwell. They're probably still 1a and 1b. From there the entire thing gets really interesting.

Tier two is a mess. I think Marcus Stoinis and Mitch Marsh should be here. Marsh took a long time to work out T20 batting, but his numbers in the last two years suggest he has. Stoinis is probably still going to be a better player up the order, but he is making his money down the list, and that works better for Australia.

Matthew Wade gets in here. He's probably just away from Marsh and Stoinis. Partly because he's perpetually confusing because he's always some way in his comeback cycle and by the time you think he's good, he's lost all form again. But he's been strong enough for a while to fit in here.

This is where you get the players who haven't quite proved it but make a lot of sense on recent form or fit. Josh Inglis hasn't been in great touch but is a good number four or five against certain teams, and so has a good slot. Tim David somehow just got in the team, despite what he has been doing since Singapore. I almost pushed him up because he is important to an Australian team who has struggled to fill the death power spot. Those are both in the squad, but I would also put Ben McDermott, the other Josh (Phillippe), I rate even higher than Inglis, but as it stands, I have them same tier. Ben McDermott is also in there, I have some thoughts on him in a moment.

That is a lot of batters to mention without getting to Aaron Finch. The other notable person I haven't yet mentioned is Steve Smith.

Steve Smith T20 by year

Yeah, quite a name to drop. It's a problem for Australia to have Smith and Finch in their lineup. That is clearly not their strongest team.

The last time Smith had a year of T20 cricket where he averaged over 30 and also struck at 130 was 2016. This year he's going at 19/125, last year it was 24/107. The biggest problem with Finch not being in my top four tiers, is that Smith isn't either. No one is doubting what they can do, but what they are currently producing is not ideal.

Smith is not in the best XI for T20, and he probably hasn't been for a while. If you wanted him in the side as a floating anchor when Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah or Shaheen Afridi is on one, that makes sense. But if he takes up a spot, it's tough for Finch to be there.

The other problem is they have different roles, so it's not even like you can just move on from one for the other. Oh, and Smith also said recently he could open. And that is where Finch bats.

Usually opening the batting is the easiest thing for a country to work out.

Australia's current opener is not Finch; it is Cameron Green. Who has had almost no T20 career at all. His 50 in Mohali was his first in T20s, in his 11th match, despite the fact he first played in 2019. So, yeah, I thought he looked good, but he's clearly going to have to play a bit more to be picked on much more than potential and two innings.

And there are two problems here, one is that Green is well, uh, Green. And more important that he is not in the squad.

He can get in the squad if there is an injury. Currently, the player most likely not to make the World Cup is Stoinis as he has a side strain. But he still might recover in time.

And it might seem like Australia could just promote Green over Stoinis, as he currently more important and a better bowler. But Stonis got them to the final from the middle order last time.

He didn't do it alone, Wade was there too. And both can open. Moving either of them up is probably not going to happen right now, unless there is a real emergency.

Now, on to Ben McDermott and Josh Phillippe. If you look at the best Big Bash players in the last few years, they are right up there. There is England's Alex Hales, and tier one's Glenn Maxwell.

Last 3 years Big Bash League

And so McDermott and Phillippe are not the only two options, but they have both become openers, so they would be the ideal people to replace Finch.

However, despite the fact that both can clearly play, it hasn't worked at international cricket.

Phillippe and McDermott

And not even close. In Phillippe's case he's also struggled in the IPL and a little in county. As for McDermott, he was fine in the blast and the Hundred, but it's hard to look at these numbers coming into a World Cup and think that either of these are safe enough bets to overcome the captain.

You look at the rest of the Big Bash batters, there really is only Chris Lynn as another opener. And I think it's clear that they weren't going back there, as they haven't since 2018.

Big Bash last 3 years

There are other Aussies who made runs, Hilton Cartwright, Ashton Turner, Jordan Silk, Moises Henriques, and Matthew Short, but none of them are openers of recent time. So there is only one other option, Josh Inglis.

And of all the people, he is at least in the squad. But from what I have heard, they just don't see him as an opener.

So the truth is that there is no real easy answer, Aaron Finch is in the side because Cam Green is too late, McDermott and Philippe haven't taken their chances, and Stoinis, Wade and Inglis are filling other roles now. Oh, and because he is captain, and still Aaron Finch.

We have seen similar problems with Eoin Morgan, Virat Kohli and even Temba Bavuma. And the same in the IPL with Kane Williamson, David Warner and Eoin Morgan again. So we know there are issues within this game, and partly because form fluctuates so much.

Ofcourse it would be untrue to say that this is just a T20 thing especially as Cricket Australia made an entire documentary which featured Aaron Finch in the exact same situation coming into the 2019 ODI World Cup. And yet in-between these two tournaments, he won a title.

All of this is more confusing of course because Finch retired from ODI cricket recently. That could just be a normal retirement by instalments that we see from top players. But even so, it does feel like a tacit admission that he wasn't playing like he used too.

I haven't mentioned that Finch has never quite been fully accepted as captain in Australia. Even with a World Cup win. Which is extraordinary. And so it only took a few hits from Green to make people wonder if he should be replaced.

Oh, should I add that Finch has been batting down the order, and at three. He was even given player of the match for a near run a ball 50 the other day.

And that is the thing with Finch, despite the fact he is an all time great T20 player. It always seems like he is three failures and someone else slogging a few lucky sixes from him being under pressure. He is under pressure now, and whether Australia win or not, you kind of feel this is the last time he will be.