Finch made his ODI debut in January 2013 against Sri Lanka in the MCG, two years after his international debut in T20Is. He scored 16 opening the blow with the late Phillip Hughes, who also made his debut and struck for a century, before falling to Ajantha Mendis after a half-century partnership. Current National Selector George Bailey captained Australia, while current teammates Mitchell Starc and Glenn Maxwell were also in the XI.
“Debuting in the MCG against Sri Lanka, I think I only have 16, but it was something you dreamed of, playing as a Victorian in the MCG and debuting there as well,” said Finch. “It’s really important to never take something like that for granted.”
“You don’t know if you can play a third game, so to be able to play 145 is pretty special,” he said.
World Cup triumph on home soil
By the start of the 2015 World Cup, Finch had built a very solid ODI record and had five centuries under his belt. He helped set the tone for the Australian tournament with 135 in their opening game against England at the MCG after being dropped before scoring in the first over.
“The World Cup is the pinnacle of one-day cricket, so to win it at home at the MCG was very special,” said Finch.
By the time of the next ODI World Cup in England, Finch was captain, but the run-up had been far from smooth. He had taken over in the wake of the ball tampering scandal and struggled to form during the 2018-19 home season against South Africa and India. However, he made 93 in Ranchi to bring about a personal and team turn, bringing Australia down from 2-0 to win the series. Finch then went on to go on a prolific run with back-to-back hundreds against Pakistan and two more in the World Cup that followed, although Australia’s tournament ended in the semi-final at the hands of England.
“Coming back from a 2-0 deficit against India in India, the first team ever to do that to win 3-2, that was something that was so huge for us at the time because it was a small transition phase leading up to the World Cup in England and we weren’t in top form,” recalls Finch. “So to go there, stand with our backs to the wall and win was very special. Then we beat Pakistan 5-0 and started the World Cup really well. That’s something that really stands out in my mind as a special series.”
Restoring Australia’s image
In the immediate aftermath of Smith’s suspension following the Newlands controversy, Tim Paine briefly took over the ODI captaincy. But Finch was soon installed and it was widely believed that he had played an important role in improving the image of the men’s team, although he was eager to turn down praise.
“There are many people who have worked hard to make sure Australian cricket is in a better place,” he said. “I’m really proud and happy with the work I’ve done leading two formats of the team. I’m certainly not alone, I can tell you, there have been so many people who have done a great job. The way “We play across the three formats it’s exciting to watch, it’s always attacking and aggressive. I think cricket is in a pretty good place now.”
See others grow
Both on and off the pitch, Australia’s limited-passage men’s game needed a major overhaul as Finch took the lead. While they remain in the center of the table, currently at number 5, and have to solve some top questions, there is the core of a strong side. Finch specifically referred to the development of the spinners, Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar, in both limited-overs formats.
“Just seeing people grow as players and give them different roles and responsibilities is very special and something I look back on and am very proud of,” he said. “If you keep seeing guys perform in international cricket and you realize maybe you were only a small part of them growing up.
“Watching the rise of Zamps over the years has also made me very proud and Ashton Agar…watching them grow into the roles they have played over the years has been one of my greatest satisfactions. enjoyed that.”
Andrew McGlashan is deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo