Aaron Finch endured a rough introduction to Test cricket.
Aaron Finch endured a rough introduction to Test cricket.

Aussie star’s radical player-power claim

Cricket is an unforgiving sport that drains players emotionally as much as physically - and in Australia in particular, there's nowhere to hide when times are tough.

Aaron Finch learnt that the hard way. After impressing in his first two Tests against Pakistan, questions were raised about whether the opener would be as profitable at the top of the order on livelier home pitches as he was on the dead tracks of the UAE.

Those questions were well-founded and while selectors remained bullish, sticking with him as Marcus Harris's opening partner, he was ruthlessly found out by an Indian attack that gave him nothing with the new ball.

Six innings and 97 runs later Finch was dropped from the Test team but still he was in the limelight. His struggles continued and he made just 26 runs in three ODIs against India.

Mentally, Finch was fried. Having to adjust between all three forms of the game combined with the constant travel and low scores had ruined the 32-year-old.

"Probably the last six months has been the most difficult of my career in terms of chopping and changing formats, making my Test debut and playing a bit more Test cricket was probably a bit of a mental challenge more than anything," Finch told SEN Breakfast.

"To play in Dubai and come straight back into an ODI and T20 series and Test matches and things like that, it's probably been the longest sustained period that I've played cricket for Australia.

"In terms of that, it was quite mentally challenging and something that I probably didn't give the guys who played all three formats of the game enough credit in."

Because of his new-found appreciation for the grind of international cricket, Finch reckons the future will see players assume greater power in deciding whether or not they're mentally fit to play, rather than leaving that call up to team officials or medicos.

The crammed international schedule is always a major talking point as players regularly spend upwards of 300 days a year away from home.

There's pressure on countries to always play full-strength teams but Finch can see a day where players who aren't in the right headspace withdraw from selection if they know they're not at the level required to compete on the biggest stage.

"I think going forward there will be times where players say, 'Look, you can pick me if you like,'" Finch told SEN.

"Your heart's still in it, your head's still in it but you're physically and mentally five per cent off or 10 per cent off.

"In international cricket, that's a long way from where the opposition are at a lot of the time so I think you will see that in terms of guys just being really honest and saying, 'Look, I can play, but my heart won't be in it or you're not going to get the best result out of me.'

"I think that's the way the game's going, people are more understanding of that.

"I think going back a few years there would be a lot of people who would look sideways at that and say, 'You're giving up your spot in the Australian side' but I think it's going to be crucial down the track."

Finch believes players who aren’t 100 per cent right will start to make their feelings known.
Finch believes players who aren’t 100 per cent right will start to make their feelings known.

The issue of player welfare has been thrust into the spotlight recently because of Australian young gun Will Pucovski's mental health battles.

The Victorian batsman took time away from the game after plundering 243 against Western Australia in October before returning to his state side to play the final Sheffield Shield match before the Christmas break.

Pucovski was named in the Australian squad for the recent Test series against Sri Lanka and played in a warm-up game against the tourists for a CA XI, but was released from the Aussie camp as the second Test started in Canberra because of mental health concerns.

Opening up about his battle last month, Pucovski revealed his difficulties hit during his maiden Shield double ton in Perth.

"It was one of those things where what it looked like from the outside wasn't quite matching up with what it was on the inside … I was more confused than at any other time in my life," Pucovski told The Follow-On podcast.

"I was 64 not out overnight if I remember. I got to the game to have my pre-morning hit in the nets and pulled one of the coaches, Lachie Stevens, aside and said, 'Look mate, this is what I'm going through. I don't really understand what's going on and don't know why it's happening but this is what's happening.'

"It was quite a confronting thing but they were beyond awesome about it … They were just so supportive from the outset.

"I still remember Lachie putting his arm around me and saying, 'Mate, I'm shattered for you and we will get you sorted when you're back but if you can do anything to get us some runs today that would be great.'

"I replied: 'Don't worry mate. I will be ready to go and will try my very best.' Obviously it turned out to be quite a good day."

Will Pucovski’s situation has attracted plenty of attention.
Will Pucovski’s situation has attracted plenty of attention.