Aussie captain Aaron Finch has subjected himself to a brutal outdoor nets session in Cairns, as he attempts to address a worrying form slump with the bat.
Finch's spot at the top of the Australian batting order has come under renewed scrutiny, ahead of his side's first one-day international (ODI) against New Zealand on Tuesday.
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The skipper again failed with the bat as Australia suffered its worst ever ODI loss to Zimbabwe over the weekend - skittled by the minnows for just 141 runs in 31 overs in Townsville.
Zimbabwe - 13th on the ICC men's ODI rankings - chased down the paltry target in 39 overs to stop Australia from completing a series clean sweep.
The Aussie skipper's latest failures in the ODI series against Zimbabwe - where he recorded scores of 15, 1 and 5 - sparked renewed questions about his place at the top of the Australian order.
Richard Ngarava had Aussie🇦🇺🏏 captain Aaron Finch in his back pocket during this ODI series.
Dismissed him 3 times in 3 matches.
— Undisputed🎙️📺 (@Mr_Tich) September 3, 2022
Aaron Finch has now had four single-digit scores in his last five innings, including two ducks 🤔#AUSvZIM
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) September 4, 2022
When does Aaron Finch’s position become untenable? He’s been terribly out of touch for a while. Can Australia afford to carry a passenger? Not sure just winning the toss will ensure success in Australia, unlike in the UAE…#AusVsZim
— Hemant (@hemantbuch) September 3, 2022
Who is responsible for Australia's loss in this match?
You would say 'Australian batters'
I would say 'Aaron Finch'
1. Poor batting👎
2. Poor fielding👎
3. Poor captaincy 👎
Is there anything in which he was good😔😒?
— Cricket Australia 🇦🇺🇦🇺🏏 (@Harpree21182174) September 3, 2022
Aaron Finch's horror run of form has become an unwanted talking point ahead of next month’s T20 World Cup, and a third cheap dismissal against Zimbabwe in Townsville hasn’t helped silence his critics: https://t.co/CS26yXdIT6
📷 Getty Images #AUSvZIM @newscomauHQ pic.twitter.com/BQGlBmRTxE
— Nic Savage (@nic_savage1) September 3, 2022
Aaron Finch hoping for return to form
With attention now turning to Cairns and Tuesday's first ODI against World No.1 ranked New Zealand, Finch decided to try something different during much needed batting practice on Monday.
While his teammates trained indoors on flat surfaces, Finch opted for a lengthy outdoor nets session on the uneven practice wickets that other batters were keen to avoid.
Finch says he hoped that by challenging himself in the tricky conditions, it would help hone his game and iron out some of the batting kinks that have plagued him in recent matches.
“They were a challenge in the nets, and it’s always nice to be able to practice in those conditions,” Finch said.
“It makes you feel as though you have to be really precise with your moments and where you are hitting the ball. It was a good, long hit, probably longer than I would normally have the day before a game, but not having as much time in the middle lends itself to longer training.”
The Aussie skipper has spent just 55 balls at the crease in his past five games - which also included a pair of ducks against Sri Lanka before the Zimbabwe series.
Despite his poor recent record, however, Finch is confident he can turn things around.
“You are always looking to improve and being able to train consistently and keep tinkering with my game to get better is the most important thing,” he said.
“The performances personally haven’t been there in terms of output of runs, but I still feel like I am a pretty good player.”
Teammates backing Aussie skipper
Perhaps more importantly for Finch, teammates have been quick to back the Aussie skipper, who has belted 17 centuries and 5346 runs across his ODI career.
Finch's ODI deputy Alex Carey says he has every confidence the skipper will still be at the helm for the 2023 World Cup in India.
“Aaron Finch will be there in 2023 and smacking runs for Australia. Finchy’s numbers speak for themselves,” Carey told WA radio on Monday.
“He’s been through patches like this and he’s come out the other end smacking them. I see Aaron Finch leading this team for another year at least.”
One thing that does not bode well for Finch ahead of the New Zealand series is the fact Zimbabwe's left-arm quick Richard Ngarava removed the Aussie skipper cheaply three times in a row in last week's series.
That will be music to the ears of ICC No.1 ranked ODI bowler Trent Boult - another left-arm paceman who will be relishing the chance to attack the out-of-sorts Australian captain.
Australia's ODI series against New Zealand opens at Cazalys Stadium in Cairns on Tuesday, with matches on Thursday and Sunday to follow.
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