Eyeing Champions Trophy berth, Finch ready to roar for Lions

As he sweats it out during practice at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot with his Indian colleagues ahead of the team’s season opener against Kolkata Knight Riders, the Australian nurtures a wish...

With the Champions Trophy around the corner, the Australian batsman knows a good season with the Gujarat Lions in the Indian Premier League could actually help him getting picked for the prestigious ICC event.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Not many in the cricketing fraternity have matched Aaron Finch when it comes to exploring the fast lanes of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

While most of the players have shifted loyalties once or twice, or at the most thrice, the swashbuckling Australian batsman has played for six different franchises in the tournament’s 10-year-long history. For now, he is happy in his den — Gujarat Lions.

After a rather successful stint with the new entrants last season, Finch is back on board hoping to make the opportunity count.

As he sweats it out during practice at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot with his Indian colleagues ahead of the team’s season opener against Kolkata Knight Riders, the Australian nurtures a wish. He hopes that the Indian cricketers will play the Big Bash League sometime in the near future. “It would be fantastic if the Indian players are available for the Big Bash League at some point. They would love it,” Finch tells Sportstar during an interaction.

While the IPL opens a window of opportunity for cricketers across the globe, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) still hasn’t allowed the men to participate in any overseas franchise-based leagues. Though the Board allowed women’s team member Harmanpreet Kaur to play the Big Bash League last season, her male counterparts are not that lucky yet.

But Finch hopes that, someday, his friends from India will also be able to enjoy the Big Bash League. “It’s fun playing in Australian grounds, there is a huge crowd support. The Big Bash offers wonderful competition, and is a loved tournament. So, the Indian players will enjoy every moment. Hope one day, they will be available for the Big Bash,” he says.

‘IPL promotes domestic talent’

The 30-year-old batsman, known for his expertise in limited overs cricket, credits the IPL for helping the young cricketers prove their mettle. In the 10th edition of the League too, a lot of young Indian cricketers — who performed decently at the domestic level — have been picked by various franchises. Even the Gujarat Lions has its ranks filled with many domestic talents, and Finch feels that this is something that makes the IPL special.

It’s fun playing in Australian grounds, there is a huge crowd support. The Big Bash offers wonderful competition, and is a loved tournament. So, the Indian players will enjoy every moment. I hope one day they will be available for the Big Bash.

“IPL is fantastic. Along with the Big Bash League, this promotes the players from the domestic circuit to make their presence felt,” he says. He takes a pause, and then continues, “Both tournaments help the bright young players prove their worth along with the some of the most prominent international cricketers. That way, the cricketers get to learn from each other. I really think it’s a great thing.”

While speaking to Sportstar a couple of days back, Gujarat Lions skipper Suresh Raina had admitted that a strong talent pool had made their job easier. Finch believes that the presence of quality international players benefits the youngsters in the team. “The talent pool is great in both the tournaments. The quality of international players participating in both the IPL and the Big Bash are equally fantastic. The best players of the world play in these leagues. They come with a lot of experience and share all that with the youngsters, who too try to make use of the advise,” Finch, who has played 79 ODIs and 31 T20s for Australia, says.

While the tournament is of huge significance for Gujarat Lions — which is in its last year in the league — this season means a lot to Finch as well. With the Champions Trophy around the corner, the Australian batsman knows a good season here could actually help him getting picked for the prestigious ICC event.

Keeping things simple

He, however, wants to keep things simple and enjoy his natural game. “I think any tournament is important for a player. The franchise has shown a lot of faith and confidence in me, and I should also try to deliver,” he says, adding, “And yes, with the Champions Trophy coming up right after the IPL, it would be a great opportunity to make it count. This will also help me get prepared for the tournament lined up next.”

Perhaps, that’s one thing most of the seasoned players would be thinking of. Even Raina had made it clear that he had his eyes set on a Champions Trophy berth.

I think any tournament is important for a player. The franchise has shown a lot of faith and confidence in me, and I should also try to deliver

To ensure that things go well, Finch says that it is important that Gujarat Lions has a great outing. “I have had great fun with Gujarat. It has been a good experience. I had an enjoyable season with the Gujarat team last season,” he says.

The Gujarat franchise finished third last season and Finch says it’s time to emulate the old success. “We played some really good cricket, though we could not reach the final, we definitely had a great season under the leadership of Suresh Raina. The captain and the team coach, Brad Hodge, guided the side to a great season. It was definitely a memorable experience in the IPL,” he says.

The mentor

The franchise will miss the services of Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo in the initial stages of the tournament, but then, it has found stability in big names like Finch, Jason Roy and Brendon McCullum. “The team is very confident, and we have a good preparation for this match. This is our first match of the season, and that too at home. So, everyone is confident,” Finch says.

At a time when the league is plagued by injuries, the Gujarat outfit is better placed, with not many injured players on its roster. That’s one thing that has left the players satisfied.

But even as he gets ready for a gruelling tournament, Finch pins hopes on the young guns. “The young players are extremely focused because of the confidence they get from the captain and the coach, who have immense faith in the players. That helps them play their natural game. We have got really good young players, who are ready to prove themselves,” he says.

As he signs off, Finch seems quietly confident about his success in the league. In a format that offers very little scope to rectify the errors, Finch has proven his class by delivering the goods consistently. And the tenth edition of the star-studded league could well belong to the Aussie.

The stage is set. Get ready for some Finch-hitting!