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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

With Australian cricket again in the firing line at least Aaron Finch offers hope of a new dawn

Despite meek returns in T20 series defeat to Pakistan, giving T20 captain the ODI job a positive move on Cricket Australia's part

Aaron Finch will captain Australia in their ODI series against South Africa on home soil. AP Photo
Aaron Finch will captain Australia in their ODI series against South Africa on home soil. AP Photo

Australia’s cricketers had probably been hoping to sneak back into the country unnoticed after the hiding they received from Pakistan in UAE.

Instead, after boarding a flight from Dubai promptly after their 3-0 Twenty20 series defeat to Pakistan was sealed, they will have returned home to find their sport still central to the news agenda.

At least the conversation has moved on from their fallibility against Mohammed Abbas, or spin bowling, or comedy running between the wickets, or the batting-collapse epidemic.

Now it is the administrators who are in the line of fire instead. The findings of a review of Cricket Australia had been made public. In brief, it found the governing body to be “arrogant” and “controlling”, among other things.

Judging by the national team who have been the representation of that administration on the field, it is tempting to ask: who knew?

In response, there is going to be root and branch reform, apparently. It even includes a new “player’s pact”.

Sure, it is well intentioned. Just as is Tim Paine’s gesture of pre-series handshakes with the opposition.

But is all just a little bit cloying. “Compete with us, smile with us, fight on with us, dream with us,” it says.

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Listen here:

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Please. Any more of that sort of stuff, and you might find David Warner walking off the pitch mid innings, complaining that the opposition have been mean … Oh.

It is vague and saccharine. Seven months on from the meltdown in South Africa, it is still not clear what Australia’s new dawn is going to look like. Other than it will look nothing like that old one. Hopefully.

Amid the shemozzle of the recent past, at least one solid decision has been made. Aaron Finch has seen his status as captain upgraded to incorporate the one-day job, as well as the T20 role he already holds.

He was hardly able to do much celebrating, given that he was in the midst of a run of just five runs from four matches against UAE and Pakistan, when it was announced last week.

But, judged on character, Cricket Australia should just give the keys to Finch and let him run the show.

He is neither hostile and in-your-face aggressive, which they want to escape, nor mawkish, as they are moving inexorably towards. Instead, he is solid and believable.

Take for instance his and Paine’s contrasting takes on the batting travails Australia suffered in the Emirates.

After the second Test defeat that sealed their fate in Abu Dhabi, Paine spoke eloquently about the fact batting collapses had become endemic across all senior Australian cricket, not just the national team.

He was dealing in facts, of course. But he was hardly speaking from a position of power, seeing as he had just left a straight one and been bowled for a duck as Australia rushed to defeat at Zayed Cricket Stadium.

Fast-forward 10 days, and the short-format side overseen by Finch had failed to chase scores of 156, 148 and 151. The captain himself had scores of 0, 3 and 1 at the start of those botched run chases.

Just as he had done in his debut Test, when he made serviceable scores of 62 and 42, he blamed himself.

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Read more:

Pakistan's Sarfraz Ahmed says Australia appeared mentally weak in UAE

David Warner leaves field over sledging - before returning to hit a century

Aaron Finch replaces Tim Paine as Australia ODI captain ahead of South Africa series

Pakistan v Australia: Who are winners and losers from the Test series

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“It has been an absolute shocker, and I take full responsibility for that,” Finch said, in the bowels of Dubai International Stadium at midnight on Sunday.

“It is my responsibility as an opening batter to set the tone. Chasing scores of 150-160 in particular, it is important your senior guys are there to steer the ship. It was horrible. I can’t sum it up any differently.”

Finch will be at the helm next time Australia take the field, for the one-day series against South Africa.

They might have swapped the desperation of UAE for home comforts by then, but Finch is under no illusions about how difficult it will be.

“It is a concern our form hasn’t been good for the past little while, and South Africa are always a very confident side,” Finch said.

“Whenever you come up against them, they play with freedom, they take the game on. Having guys like Faf [du Plessis] and Quinton de Kock, they do take a lot of confidence into the series.

“It is up to us to start that series really well.”