Having been asked many times, “What made Don Bradman so much better than the rest”, I came to the conclusion it was his unique ability to replicate the more relaxed thought process of a net session while batting in the middle.
I reached this point of view after watching footage of Bradman bat to save the 1938 Trent Bridge Test. His footwork, normally positive and precise, looked like any other batsman as he shuffled in the crease defending doggedly.
This drastic change in mind-set was brought on by Bradman being desperate to save a match in which Stan McCabe had played a memorable innings.
Still, Australia were forced to follow on and for once Bradman must have felt the external pressures that he was obviously able to eradicate from most of his innings. Maybe, he also experienced that same feeling in his final Test innings when he made a duck, needing only four runs for a career average of a hundred.
And that prompts the question; “What affect does batting average have on players?”
As he smote the English attack in scoring a record breaking 156 off just 63 balls in the first T20 international, Aaron Finch didn’t seem to have a care in the world. Contrast that with his last two Sheffield Shield seasons, where he’s accumulated a miniscule 300 runs in 19 innings at the pedestrian strike rate of 58 runs per hundred balls.
In T20, strike rate is the dominant statistic and batting average takes a back seat.
However, in Test and first-class cricket very few players are willing to embrace equally the disparate ambitions of personal success and entertaining the crowd.
After such a brutal display of hitting, it’s natural to wonder; “Why can’t Finch do better in longer forms of the game?” Finch is acknowledging that average counts by playing differently at first-class level to try and maintain a place in the side.
One commentator described Finch’s T20 knock as “a great innings”. I would argue that the lack of a contest - the bowlers appeared powerless to stop Finch - made it more of an exhibition of exceptional hitting. Part of the enjoyment of a memorable innings is to witness a batsman overcome everything the bowlers produce in the contest. Consequently, the great Test knocks are readily remembered many years later.
Bradman’s 300 in a day at Headingley, McCabe’s brilliance at Trent Bridge, Brian Lara’s record breaking 400 and VVS Laxman’s exquisite 281 at Eden Gardens are all recalled fondly.
Even some of the shorter form knocks such as Sachin Tendulkar’s epic 200 to become the first player to reach that level in an ODI will be talked about for years. Chris Gayle’s blazing century in the inaugural T20 World Cup is still recalled as the first of its kind. And Garry Sobers feat in achieving six sixes in a first-class over is still talked about in awe.
Players like Sobers, Tendulkar and Gayle will long be revered as all-round batsmen because of their highly successful Test careers.
In order to elevate his status as a batsman, perhaps Finch needs to take a leaf out of Bradman’s book. He could try emulating the thought process in first-class cricket, not so much of his net sessions but the T20 arena.