Over a fortnight ago, as Australia ran into England at The Oval in the first of their 5-match ODI-series, one man, decked in bright yellows, wasn’t feeling all that bright.
He was done in by a Moeen Ali tosser for just 19.
This wasn’t what was expected out of an opener. A couple of days later, at Cardiff, he spent all of 6 minutes at the crease.
His contribution? A golden duck.
He was to reach the tipping point in the game thereafter. As Australia completed a humiliating hat-trick of ODI defeats, the jaded batsman was almost at the precipice contributing just 20.
Perhaps, he’d reached a point so damp and unsavoury that beyond it, it seemed, he couldn’t be saved.
Still, Australia kept losing, kept battling and at the same time, kept persisting with the out of sorts batsman.
Then, something strange happened at the famous Chester-le-Street. As Australia came agonisingly close to completing what had finally seemed a victory- three dull losses later- the same beleaguered batsman struck a 100.
Having previously endured a horrible run against an in-form England- 39 runs from 3 games- Aaron Finch came out of nowhere and struck a 106-ball- 100. His strike rate exacerbated English woes: 94.
It was akin to a straight ‘A grade’ on a difficult examination day.
Perhaps, it made sense for Australia to put him where he’s accustomed to batting: as the opener. Fiddling with Finch in the middle-order brought little change to their outcomes anyways.
Perhaps, it made sense for Aaron Finch to do what Aaron Finch does freely on most days; see the ball, hit the ball. Striking the ball with imperious energy, it seemed the right-hander had enough.
All felt a new Finch was born.
But hopes were quickly deflated as the batsman squandered in the final ODI at Manchester.
A 22 after having struck 100? That was the end of Australia’s woeful ODI nightmare. As viewers, aware of the abilities of the men sporting yellow jerseys, you thought someone had opened the door for the Bogeyman.
And in walked English horror. Hopes were rested on the T20s that were to follow.
What would anyone have expected from Aaron Finch, anyways?
That’s when the gum-chewing six-hitting machine blasted an 84. It seemed he was in a hurry. He’d consumed only 41 balls after all.
In just that 7-over stay at the crease, he lifted Australia from the bother of being smothered again and got them within fighting distance of England’s daunting ask of 222.
Australia didn’t exit Birmingham with their faces buried in their palms.
Of the 10 sixes that Australia heaved, 6 were bludgeoned by Aaron Finch. A strike rate of 204 an attitude of a mass-murderer wearing an iron-gauntlet.
It was just another day in the field for a Warner, Smith-less Australia.
It was another day for Aaron Finch, striking most runs in a contest that featured names like Root, Morgan, Hales, Ali and, Shaun Marsh.
But after their predicament of being galloped by England, Australia has moved on. Well, at least, geographically.
But all of a sudden, it seems, currently competing against Pakistan and Zimbabwe- in a T20 triangular that rarely features the troika- it seems, all worries regarding Finch’s bearish, bullish form have dissipated like thin vapour.
In case you didn’t follow, Aaron Finch’s previous scores read 172, 68* and 84.
Is he moon-struck? Are Australia overjoyed? None can tell. The scorecard reveals that the last 2 T20s that Australia has been a part of have resulted in the decimation of Pakistan and Zimbabwe, respectively.
It’s another day in the life of Aaron Finch.
Even as personal records do not seem to move even a tiny tissue of Finch’s burly muscles, one has to contend with the current mathematics the Victorian has forced his opponents to read.
A dangerous Finch= destruction for the opposition.
Sadly though, Zimbabwe, who haven’t played an iota of international cricket since the ICC World Cup qualifiers, learnt it the hard way.
There seemed little wisdom in pitching the ball up to an explosive batsman who looked more the part of a combatant eager to take down a platoon on his own than a batsman with a curious bat in hand.
At Harare, on July 3 2018, history was scripted, perhaps seemingly unaffectionately by a batsman who seemed to have had enough of enduring the crap; the defeats against England.
You felt pity for the Zimbabweans. For in Finch’s histrionics, it seemed he made them pay for the undoing suffered at the hands of the English. It was wrong, perhaps even uncalled for.
Finch meant business as he smashed the highest-ever T20 individual score.
When you strike a 50 and go onto converting it into a promising 60s or 70s, it could be said, you’ve collected the ODI equivalent of a ton in cricket’s daintiest format. A hundred- the one fans savoured courtesy a KL Rahul special a day after Finch’s heroics- is hugely savoured.
But what is one to do when a batsman goes on a rampage, collecting 172 off just 76?
A few cricketing summers ago, when Gayle thudded the now-defunct Pune Warriors in his groundbreaking 175 off just 66 deliveries, it seemed the sport had been coerced into wearing the ‘Universe Boss’ jersey.
You weren’t really into the sport if you weren’t into following Gayle.
One wonders, how is the cricketing world rejoicing now as an embattled Australia has produced a marvel one can dote endlessly?
Even as many may hold it against Aaron Finch- for slashing Zimbabwe’s wrists on way to his record-breaking score, one cannot simply ignore the magnanimity of the effort.
16 fours, 10 sixes; a strike rate of 226, was this the same belligerent striker who seemed clueless about where his off-stump was in England?
What lies ahead?
Having the dubious albeit exciting record of being the batsman with the most number of runs in the game without adorning the whites, where’s Aaron Finch going now isn’t as important as is the need to enjoy the present.
It’s a simple ‘live it up’ philosophy. For a batsman who seems rather content in hoisting massive blows in the present, even the highlights compel viewers to do a rewind of a familiar mighty blow.
Perhaps it makes sense to be less introspective, to be more appreciative. Perhaps it makes sense to enjoy what Finch has gathered now.