Ricky Ponting’s surprising Finch claim
RICKY Ponting has backed under-performing opener Aaron Finch to lead Australia in the World Cup, making the surprising claim his form slump may actually have arrived at the perfect time.
Less than three months out from cricket's showpiece event in England, Australia has plenty of question marks around its top order. David Warner is set to return from his year-long ban for his involvement in the ball tampering scandal, Finch has been battling for runs for months, Usman Khawaja is running hot after spending much of his career out of the ODI side and Shaun Marsh, Australia's best batsman in the 50-over format over the past 12 months, hit a speed bump with three single figure scores in India.
Finch has passed 50 just once in his past 12 ODI innings, and failed to reach double figures in five of those knocks. It's why serious questions are being asked about his place in the side come the World Cup.
But his leadership was instrumental in guiding Australia to a come-from-behind 3-2 win over India and dumping him would provide the added headache of finding a new captain for the tournament in England, because neither Warner nor Steve Smith are allowed to lead the team upon their return.
Ponting said Finch deserves to skipper the side at the World Cup because he's proven himself over a long period of time. The former Aussie captain also said it may be a blessing Finch has been completely out of sorts recently, because he would rather go through a rough patch now with enough time to recover than in the middle of the World Cup.
"He's been Australia's best performed one-day batsman in the last couple of seasons. He's made more hundreds than anybody else," Ponting told cricket.com.au during the ODI series against India.
"Although he's recently gone through a real tough time, if he can get through the other side of that before the World Cup, it could be - as hard as it sounds on him - it almost could be perfect timing.
"He'd rather be going through that now than going through that at the start of the World Cup and having your captain completely out of form going through an entire World Cup."
If Finch can rediscover some semblance of form in the upcoming five-match series in the UAE against Pakistan - Australia's last competitive hitout before the World Cup - he will take a great deal of confidence to England knowing his batting can back up what Ponting says is an impressive tactical nous.
"His captaincy, from what I've seen in the last few months even though he hasn't been batting that well, has looked really sharp," Ponting said
"He's the man, for me, to captain Australia throughout hopefully a successful World Cup campaign."
Finch scored two ducks against India but bounced back with 93 in the third game in Ranchi. Aussie legend Mark Waugh told the Big Sports Breakfast that was an important knock and cricket journalist Robert Craddock echoed Ponting's beliefs, saying the 32-year-old had done a terrific job holding the dressing room together in the wake of the damaging ball tampering affair.
"Aaron Finch remains under pressure but he's doing such a beautiful job as captain uniting a team of so many fractured parts, that it would be folly to get rid of him at this stage," Craddock told Fox Sports News.
"I think he has to captain the team."