Aaron Finch feared for World Cup spot amid ‘huge anxiety’ over form

Aaron Finch has opened up about the “huge anxiety” he felt during his form slump and the possibility that it could lead to him being left out of Australia’s World Cup campaign.
Finch endured a nightmare home season, during which he was dropped from the Test side, and, coupled with the pending returns of David Warner and Steven Smith, murmurs had begun about who would make way. But Finch emerged from his troubles in emphatic style soon after with a prolific series against Pakistan, which included back-to-back hundreds in Sharjah.
Speaking in-depth to SEN radio on Wednesday, ahead of joining Australia’s pre-World Cup camp in Brisbane, Finch talked about having learnt lessons from his difficult patch, which led to him over-training only to see the runs dry up even more.
“There were times when I was feeling I’m in no position to criticise anyone about their game when I’m not doing it well myself”
Since the Pakistan series, he has had a break from the game before returning to the nets ahead of the run-in to the World Cup, where a resurgent Australia will be aiming to defend their title and win a sixth title. But there were moments when Finch wondered if he would be there at all.
“[I had] huge anxiety based on the World Cup coming up, being captain of the side and not getting the output I wanted leading from the front,” Finch said. “When I think of Australian captains – Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor, Allan Border – everyone leads from the front, and I was getting really frustrated, I was preparing, doing everything I thought I could to succeed, it just wasn’t happening.
“The support I was getting was incredible, but in the back of your mind you are thinking, ‘gee, the World Cup isn’t far away, as a captain I could be left out of the squad’; then you start putting unrealistic pressure on yourself to perform when you can’t control that. That takes care of itself if you do your job.”
David Warner checks out the pitch while Steven Smith looks on BCCI
The pressure on Finch peaked when he made a duck in the opening ODI against India, but two matches later came the breakthrough when he struck 93 in Ranchi as part of an opening stand of 193 with Usman Khawaja, which sparked Australia’s run of eight consecutive victories.
“It’s a game of inches,” he said. “Hyderabad, the first ODI, my hundredth, I’m thinking this is where the rut’s ending, I’m coming out going to be aggressive, and I get a good one from Jasprit Bumrah, out for a duck. I was going back through all my notes that I’m keeping of training sessions and mental preparation and thinking to myself why is it different to when I was in form? The reality was there wasn’t a huge difference, it was in my own mindset. I was starting to think a bit negatively.
“I was lucky enough to get 90-odd, played a pretty good innings, had great partnership with Usman in Ranchi then started to feel like I’d turned it around. I walk out next game chasing 360 and out for a duck again, then you doubt yourself. To get a start in the next game was nice then to continue it on through UAE was pleasing.”
Finch also admitted there were times when he was concerned his personal struggles with the bat were eroding his authority as captain. “You are trying talk to the boys about game plans and where you need to improve but I hadn’t been doing my job as well as I could have, so there were times when I was feeling I’m in no position to criticise anyone about their game when I’m not doing it well myself. I found that really tough and had to learn to put to one side.”
He is now back leading the side from a position of strength, but still plans to make plenty of use of the experience of Smith and Warner as they return to international cricket following the ball-tampering bans. The pair paid a flying visit to meet the squad in the UAE before travelling to India for the IPL, but the Brisbane camp will be their official return to the Australia set-up since last March and Finch has spent a lot of time thinking about the dynamic of leading former captain Smith.