Australia men’s white-ball captain Aaron Finch believes that cricket’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic must take priority over the fulfilling of ODI and Test league commitments. He said that recent cancellations of series against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will hopefully “even out” over the next decade.
The national team coach Justin Langer had already made it clear that his plans no longer featured a home ODI series against Zimbabwe, and was geared more towards the possibility of a white-ball tour to England in September – itself postponed from its original dates in July.
While there has been some cynicism about Cricket Australia postponing series against smaller nations in the past – Bangladesh have seen numerous series pushed back or never played, Zimbabwe likewise – Finch insisted that the wider imperative of resuming the game in the wake of Covid-19 needed to be placed ahead of anything else.
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“It just comes down to being really flexible and doing whatever’s needed for world cricket to be back up and running and for all countries to be thriving and having the best opportunity to be successful,” Finch said. “I think if you start looking at it as ‘we need to play against a certain opposition’ or something like that for your own betterment, that’s when a lot of things can fall down.
“Especially in the really short term, we’re just having to be focused on making sure that world cricket is back up and running and as many countries as possible are in a great state to be competing. I don’t think that the right be all and end all is where you finish in rankings for a World Cup or anything like that. I just think the health of world cricket is important, and whatever that looks like, that’s going to be flexible, going to change on its head quite quickly, and there’ll be some teams that probably have a tougher challenge to get where they need to be.
“But I think, say, over the next 10 years, that will all even itself out; it won’t be a big issue. We’ve just got to get back to playing and making sure we, as players, as Australian players and Cricket Australia, the ACA and everyone, is doing whatever we can to make sure cricket is in as healthy a spot as it can be, and I know there’s a lot of people working bloody hard on that at the moment.”
“We just have to be really conscious of being ultra-flexible – there might be a tour that comes up at relatively short notice because we can get there, and that’d be brilliant.”
Finch said that flexibility, to the point of playing series at much shorter notice than usual, needed to be at the core of the national team’s attitude to the next year or so. “I think it’s something that all countries will look at,” he said. “What we’ve got to be really mindful now is just having the best interests of all cricket supported, whether it’s Australia, India, England, South Africa, whichever country, I think we’ve all got to get around each other and do what’s best for cricket.
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“That might mean a little bit of short-term pain, or not ideal scenarios for a particular country, but the fact we’ve all just got to get together and make it work for the good of the game, I think that’s the most important thing to remember. We all want to be playing as much as we can wherever we can, whatever we have to do to get the game back up and running, but it just comes down to the fact there’s going to be a lot of give and take, a lot of compromise from a huge amount of stakeholders, so I think we’re just going to have to be really flexible in that regard.
“It’s obviously unfortunate that Zimbabwe aren’t coming and it [the tour] has been postponed. I think everyone did their best to get that up and running. As cricketers, we always wanted to be playing regardless of where it’s at or who it’s against, so it’s just in the best interests of cricket to have everyone out there playing again is so important. Unfortunate that’s been postponed.”
Asked whether he knew when he would next be playing a game, Finch said he was still unsure, though the mooted England series in September loomed large. “It’s a little bit up in the air to be honest, just how quickly everything’s changing in Australia,” he said. “[In] Victoria – we’re going to the other way again: we’ve had a little bit of an outbreak, so we’re not exactly sure when our next game is going to be.
“In our mind we were planning for Zimbabwe, we’re planning for England, and all going well, that England tour – I think that’s what we’re planning for. In my mind I’m preparing to go to England and play. Whether that happens – we’ll wait and see. We just have to be really conscious of being ultra-flexible – there might be a tour that comes up at relatively short notice because we can get there, and that’d be brilliant. Whatever it takes, I think all the players are in the same boat.”
Looking further ahead, Finch indicated that Australia needed to be attempting to plan more comprehensively for future tournaments, reflecting that their 2019 World Cup campaign, while solid in reaching the semi-finals, had been forced into a rushed preparation by the Newlands scandal and Langer’s subsequent appointment as coach.
“It’s tough if you just go in there and wing it. I think you have to do a lot of planning and preparation,” Finch said. “Not so much for the game day to day, but I think the preparation that goes into the planning of how you’re going to play, what the trend of the game is going to be for you to be successful. It’s easy to just turn up and play a game and hope for the best but if you can start to get a really structured plan in how you think the game is going to be in three years’ time or two-and-a-half, whenever that 2023 World Cup is, I’m talking 50-over format more than the 20-over.
“I think it’s really important that you have a clear structure that you can, a kind of blueprint that you can fall back on. That helps a lot with how you pick your team and the personnel that you’ve got. We probably left it too late last time. There was obviously Justin coming in quite late in the four-year cycle and we gave a really good fist of it. So we’re really determined to be ultra well-planned in this one to make sure that we’re leaving no stone unturned in terms of where we think the game is heading and where we need to go, strengths, weaknesses, what we can do to make sure that we’re in the best place and we’ve got the best opportunity to win that World Cup.”
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