Australia’s reaching the final of the T20 World Cup is not surprising, skipper Aaron Finch said on Saturday, stressing that his team has the depth to go the distance and clinch its first world title in the shortest format.
Australia had come into the ICC event after losing all the series played this year. They lost to New Zealand, West Indies and Bangladesh in the lead-up to the tournament.
On Thursday, however, Australia beat Pakistan by five wickets in the second semi-final of the T20 showpiece to set up a summit clash against New Zealand.
Here are excerpts from Finch’s press conference:
Can you briefly summarize the team’s preparations ahead of tomorrow’s final?
We had a really good day off after the semifinal and an optional training session today which most guys turned up to. Yeah, it’s been really good. The boys have been on a high and can’t wait for tomorrow.
Australia have not yet won the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup; are you determined to change the fortunes?
Yeah, it’s one that’s eluded us in the past, and the fact that we are here in the final gives us the best opportunity to rectify that.
Yeah, I think it will be a great game against New Zealand. They are a great side and they have been in all the finals over the last six years. Yeah, looking forward to it.
And if you can give an idea of what would be your highlights from the tournament thus far.
Well, I think the spirit among the team. Obviously we came here, a lot of people had written us off from the start and that’s been really impressive the way we’ve gone about our business.
Everyone has prepared really well. Everyone has had a really defining match or match-defining performance at some point. The guys are really up and about for tomorrow.
I just wanted to ask you, many people had written you off, how fulfilling is it to reach the finals and have a chance at winning the title?
Like you said, everyone had written us off but we had a lot of confidence within. We’re really confident the way that we were preparing, the way that our strategy was coming together.
Yeah, I think it hasn’t defied expectation. I think we came here with a really clear plan to win the tournament, and we still feel as though we’ve got the squad to do that.
In the last game against Pakistan, Pat Cummins bowled over – do you think he goes a bit under the radar as much as his attack is known for his bowling skills?
Yeah, I think Pat’s been fantastic right through the innings. He’s bowled some really crucial overs in the power play and through the middle, and like we saw last game, that 19th over to bowl, to just go for three I think was so impressive.
Our whole bowling unit have been really impressive all the way through. I think the way that Maxie and Mitch Marsh have contributed with Marcus Stoinis who has not had much opportunity with the ball but the way they have shared the fifth bowler responsibilities has been fantastic. So yeah, been really pleased with all their bowling attack.
The way the team performed in the semifinal, pulled it off through Stoinis and Matt Wade is brilliant but going into the final, do you think Steve Smith’s form is a concern going into the final? He has not scored many in this tournament?
No, not concerned one bit about his form. He’s a world-class player and he’s someone in big games has showed how valuable he is. He’s been hitting the ball as well as I’ve seen for a long time, so no, no concerns there whatsoever.
What are you planning for tomorrow’s final, and what about the playing level, same combination or any changes expected in the team?
We’ll keep that under wraps until tomorrow.
So the toss has been massive in Dubai. Will you change your batting approach if you are batting first?
I think at some point, I said it a couple of weeks ago, I think if you’re batting first, at some point in the tournament you’re going to have a to win a game batting first. Obviously the trend of the tournament and the trend of the IPL leading into this is that chasing was the way to go.
But yeah, I’m not too fussed what we have to do tomorrow. I think in the last game, I was hoping to lose the toss, actually, so I would have batted first – well, no, I wouldn’t have minded batting first.
But the fact that I won the toss, we are always going to bowl. It’s just one of those things. I think if you can put a decent enough score on the board, you’re going to put a lot of pressure on the opposition even chasing.
Looking at the heroics of Matthew Wade, can you see him up the order to fully realize his batting abilities in the final show down?
Yeah, potentially, we talked about it the other day. The possibility of Matt going in a little bit further up the order especially with Shad, still having a couple overs to go, but we decided to hold him back towards the end and it paid off there. He’s someone who is really versatile in our order. We’ve seen him open the batting, bat at three, and now he’s down at seven. He provides a huge amount of flexibility for our team.
Could I ask you to talk us through the response to the England game, and I guess specifically the days between that loss and the Bangladesh game, I think you took a couple of days off from training. But were the sort of conversations around that and the response to it?
Yeah, really disappointed obviously. We didn’t put in our best performance. But to have a couple of days off and to have the guys regroup on what had been I suppose a really grueling first couple of weeks of the tournament where we turned up, had some quarantine and then trained really hard in the lead-in to the tournament.
So to have the ability to mentally and physically freshen up for a couple of days was important, but what we did talk about touring that time was staying really committed to being aggressive. We felt as though in that game we were probably just a little bit timid and got out played in the power play by Woakes in particular, who got England off to a good start. It was just about staying really aggressive.
We understand in this format of the game that when you’re up against a great opposition that they don’t always allow you big opportunities to get into the game, and whether it’s bat or ball, you have to really find a small edge at some point and try and drive that advantage home. I think every team plays it very similar, so we just reiterated that’s how we wanted to go about it and play that way.
What does the Australian/New Zealand rivalry mean to you and what makes this rivalry so special?
I think both teams have got a great history in cricket – well, not just cricket, but as neighbours, so to speak, Down Under. It’s a great relationship. We play quite a bit against New Zealand now and we always have great battles regardless of the format.
Yeah, it’s bloody exciting to be playing against New Zealand. They are a great team and led super by Kane Williamson. So it’s just one of those things that both teams seem to have found their way into each other’s path along the way in some tournaments. So, yeah, it’s really exciting.
Were you nervous at all in those crunch moments?
Oh, yeah, absolutely, there’s a few nerves there no doubt. We wouldn’t be human in if that wasn’t the case. It was a tense game and the fact that we are on the right end of it was obviously very exciting.
But that’s probably been the change in our approach to T20 cricket in this series. We’ve gone in with seven specialist batters for that reason that if you have a slight hiccup, we still have a lot of power and balance down the bottom of the order. So we carry a lot of confidence with the makeup of that team as well.
This has been billed as a final between two unexpected teams, I guess, two unexpected finalists. Would you agree, and does that any more pressure or take away?
No, it’s not unexpected. Like I said we came here with a clear plan to try to win this tournament. We always felt as though we’ve got the depth of the squad and the quality in our squad to put ourselves in a position to do that.
And New Zealand, they have been in every final for a long time now in ICC events. They are a great team over all three formats of the game. They are a team that can never be underestimated. But maybe people on the outside do. Certainly inside, we don’t. They have got firepower, they have got experience, they have got class.
No, I’m not surprised one bit.
The possibility of being the first Australian team to win the World Cup, is that something as a captain you say to embrace the occasion or do you say ignore the occasion and make it another game? And have you had a chat with Meg Lanning about being here and doing it here at the bigger stage?
No, I haven’t chatted to Meg unfortunately.
What was the first part of the question? Oh, embrace. We haven’t actually spoken about it as yet. Like I said earlier, we are just committed to turning up and playing some really aggressive and good cricket.
We understand that T20 cricket can be fickle in its nature at certain periods of time and you have to embrace the challenges of it, whether it’s a final or whether it’s a one-off game in any kind of series, I think they all mean a lot.
So yeah, we are just excited to get underway tomorrow.
First of all good, luck for tomorrow’s finale. Have you had any changes in the lineup?
I think the New Zealand side, they have got a huge amount of quality and they have shown that over a long period of time now. I think they have been the best power play performing team with the ball in this tournament, so that’s going to be a challenge.
They have got obviously Darren Mitchell who played a great knock in the last game against England. Martin Guptill, class and power. And then you’ve got Kane Williamson who is all class as well as a top three. They have got match winners right throughout their innings, and with the bat and ball, Ish Sodhi and Mitch Santner have showed their class in the past as well.
Yeah, it’s a game between two sides that are really similarly matched I think, and yeah, it will be a great game.
Definitely there is a feeling between both the teams, there is a good balance. Who is the trump card for your team for the final? Is it Adam Zampa? Someone else?
I think like I said before, at some point throughout the tournament, everyone in our 11 has had a match-winning contribution, which has been really impressive. I don’t think it’s down to one person.
I think in a big game, you need everyone to chip in their part and yeah, that’s a part of the pressure of a final and if it’s your day as an individual, trying to maximize that and go in as big as you can. Yeah, it will come down to the day on, I suppose, who maximizes their opportunities.
Tell us about the importance of the first six overs, whether it is batting or bowling, how important is controlling the game in the first six overs?
Yeah, I think we’ve seen throughout the tournament the importance of the power play. A lot of games have been dictated by who has won the initial contest test in the power play in both innings. No doubt it will be a real challenge. It won’t define who wins the match but it does help set up your innings if you perform over the bat and on the flipside, if you can make inroads and get early wickets with the ball it goes a long way to trying to control the middle overs on your terms a little bit more.
Can you talk a lit about that delivery from Shane and whether you’ve thought about any personal differences in your preparation to save face with someone like Trent Boult after what happened on Thursday?
It was a good ball. Any time it nips back a little bit, I think if you look back at my career, that’s no secret, yeah, that’s where I’m most vulnerable. Obviously that will be a challenge with Trent bowling left-arm swing.
With Tim Southee, you can swing the ball away, but also bowls one where he knocks the ball off the seam and it slides off a little bit. Yeah, I’ve had a really good hit at training just now, so yeah, feeling good going into tomorrow.
Transcript courtesy: ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020 via Online Media Zone.
With PTI inputs