Aaron Finch - Saluting one of the greats of Aussie white-ball cricket

image-ldu1y4y0Aaron Finch retirement on Tuesday morning

On the first of February, 2015, playing in the finals of what was a closely-watched tri-series (also involving Dhoni's India), Aaron Finch got out for a duck against England at the WACA.

There was a context to this knock and the duck did raise a few concerns for the international cricketing world was on the heels of something mega.

In exactly a fortnight's time, Aaron Finch opened the innings for an Australia featuring Watson, Maxwell and Smith.

This time around, he cracked a belter of a 135 off just 128 deliveries. In there- were 3 whopping sixes.

Interestingly, the lad who just didn't score a run a few days ago had cracked a dominant century against the very same opponent. Australia were well under their way and Aaron Finch had fired the first three-figure-score of the ICC men's ODI Cricket World Cup.

He'd end up being a deserving world cup winner along with his mates; his contribution being a respectable one with 280 runs from 8 games including a fifty and a ton, averaging 35.

That, in effect, was Aaron Finch; a fearless batsman who could turn up the heat on any given day without much song or drama whilst knowing pretty well that he was never the subject of hype.

But that didn't matter to him. Not one bit.

To this day, when any of us dig up on the World Wide Web the popular snaps of the ICC 2019 World Cup, then barring the polarising images that cloud our imagination with regards to the high-octane final, there's one that doesn't eschew the mind.

It's that of the photoshoot of the men's captains. 

There's Virat Kohli in his macho avatar. There's the calming sight of Jason Holder and then the thorugh gents such as Babar Azam can be seen sitting quietly on the brown sofa.

But there's also Aaron Finch in there, sporting the effervescent boyish smile. As a matter of fact, legend has it that minutes after the completion of the famous snaps, Finch presented a birthday cake to the great Babar Azam. The pics can be found even today.

Some say, he'd prepared it himself. Whether or not it's true, it's Finch's gesture that matters; which captain of a team as mighty as Australia would have ever thought of carrying something soft and sweet as a birthday cake and that too, for an intense rival?

But that again was Aaron Finch. In a world of bitter cricketing rivalries, he was sweet, giving, magnanimous even. 

Despite not being attributed some larger than life imagery, Finch managed to touch an often corrosive spirit of the game with his inherent simplicity. 

He didn't have time for swearing at his opponents. And yet, he made time for appreciating their brilliance.

Which other international cricketer in the last decade and a half can you recollect appreciating the skill of the very bowler whose unflinching yorker he had fallen a victim to?

During his last tour to India, which was about two cricketing summers ago, when Bumrah managed to castle his stumps, Finch, the batsman departing for a paltry score, joined hands collectively in applauding India's celebrated bowler.

That was Aaron Finch.

He’s a champion of the game who has left the scene but not without thudding 8,526 white-ball runs. 

Despite presiding over as captain of a cricketing entity famous for being loud and 'giving it back' Finch could've been a rabble-rousing offerer of expletives, he was anything but.

He instead chose to entertain and entertain alone. 

For that is, well and truly, what his batting was about; whether you recollect the 172 in a T20 international in which he ate Zimbabwe for lunch or the magnificent 63-ball-156 with which he first captured the public imagination.

And yet, it seems a touch unfair to think that while we, the stat-obsessed, social-media crazed lot remain ever grateful in saluting a Kohli for his exploits against a Johnson and Malinga and hardly refrain from celebrating Williamson's heroics, there's so little we spare to applaud a true-blue white-ball great of Australian cricket.

Just two years into his T20I career, Finch caught the vibe at the opening Natwest T20I of 2013 and quite simply owned it at the Rose Bowl.

True to our number-crunching psyche that doesn't discard any stat important to the international game, whether it's exact number of days Virat remained stuck at the 71st international century or the number of maidens bowled by Pollock or Walsh in the sport, it appears, we've just forgotten the number of runs scored by Finch in a single Root over in that game.

Bowling what was then only the second time ever in his international T20 career, an unsuspecting Root faced an indomitable Finch and what followed were fireworks.

In dismantling England's famous talent for tiny little pieces, Aaron Finch hit three consecutive sixes in that utterly forgetful over for the English as he collected 27 free-wheeling runs.

Yet, it's a shame how little we remember about a knock that truly catapulted Aaron Finch into the eyes of the batting-obsessed public.

Perhaps only an Aaron Finch could've coaxed Shane Watson to stay buried at the other end doing nothing other than applauding every single hit to the fence with which this mild-mannered Aussie spurred the crowd. 

Finch's batting was about never holding himself back, it was about giving everything to the cause of Australian cricket and it was about playing the game how it must be truly played: fearlessly.

Power, timing and the gift of finding runs on either side, Finch had plenty of that. Which is why for as long as Australian cricket remains the enigma it is, for both its stars and its fans, it'll hurt as to why Aaron Finch never succeeded at the Test level?

But like with most incredible tales, there's always something in it to ponder as an afterthought.

Though in his case, it could be said, Aaron Finch left little to the imagination, excelled on the field, hit some of the brightest bowlers for aplenty and exited the scene when he felt like it. There was just no afterthought.

Thanks for the entertainment, Finchy!

Read More: #OTD in 1999 - When Anil Kumble cleaned up Pakistan with a perfect ten