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Skippering a team brings with it a responsibility that becomes even greater when the team is having a poor run in a tournament. Aaron Finch who has been at the helm of the Pune Warriors India for a few games now is shouldering that responsibility, working alongside Coach Allan Donald and the rest of the support staff to clinch wins with five games still to be played.
A top-order bat, Finch also hopes to put up a better performance in the remaining games, while appreciating his team’s efforts. Despite all the hard work and despite having done well in parts of batting, bowling or fielding, PWI haven’t been able to click as a unit, all on one day.
But the failures are definitely not for the lack of effort and PWI are hoping to reverse their fortunes, beginning with a win at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium against the Rajasthan Royals on Sunday.
While speaking to iplt20.com after training on Saturday evening, Finch spoke about his role, the team and the immense support they have received from their home crowd despite the string of losses.
While talking about the IPL, the hard hitting batsman said the game has grown into being more tactical and a lot tougher than sometimes it has been given credit for.
Excerpts from the interview:
On captaincy and the responsibility
Of course it is a big responsibility, the captaincy. I have done it in a few games now and with Angelo (Mathews) stepping down because he wasn’t in the team for few matches, he felt it was best that the same captain continue for the rest of the tournament. And that is real credit to him that he was able to do that and I suppose I was lucky enough to step into the position.
Has the fight they put up against RCB, in their last match, helped their confidence?
Of course, I think the way we fought that game out and the way Robin and Angelo played, especially towards the end was outstanding and really gave us a chance. And that is all we can really ask for, to put us in positions to win games. Unfortunately so far this year we have been on the wrong side for a few results. But it is pleasing that the guys are still fighting very hard for the wins and the losses are definitely not for the lack of effort.
With five games remaining and playing for pride what are the areas they are working on and whether there is more space now to think out of the box with less pressure on?
I think we are in a position where we can just experiment with games plans and tactics. Starting with the game against RR we have got a chance to knock the Royals off and really put a dent in their aspirations for the knock-outs. They lost their last match (against KKR) and we played well in the last game, (but) AB de Villiers was unbelievable at the end of the innings so that probably got the game just a little bit out of hand. But it is an unusual position to be in because we are playing knowing that we cannot make it to the play-offs but we also have a lot of confidence in the way that we have been playing. What we can hold on to at this time of the year, is really ruin other teams chances and knock them out of the competition. If we can do that, it would be outstanding.
On RR being unbeaten in their home ground
They really play well in these conditions. Their team is suited to these conditions. Rahul (Dravid) has been an unbelievable captain and leads the team well and Shane Watson has been in good form but he is not invincible. We have got some plans up our sleeves to knock him over early and really get into their middle-order and win the game.
What has he learnt from the likes of David Hussey and George Bailey amongst others he has played under on captaining a team?
You try and learn as much as you can by talking to people and try and take some ideas. Playing for so many years under Cameron White’s captaincy at Victoria has been great. Even the last two years in Delhi Daredevils when I was playing under Mahela Jayawardene for some time and then Virender Sehwag for a while it is just great to learn from these guys who are so experienced and great players in their own right. Any time you take on the captaincy role it is just about trying to manage everybody right. George Bailey has been a good captain too, so I think that you just take every opportunity to keep developing your leadership skills.
On the challenges while batting in T20
It is very tough. I think it is a lot harder than people give it credit for. It is a very tactical game, not all about brute force. Some of the guys you see who are more successful now are manipulators of the ball and obviously there are guys like Shane Watson, Chris Gayle and David Warner who use their brute force and power. But guys like AB de Villiers and players who can manufacture different shots, they are just unbelievable talents and the game is going a lot more down that route. Sometimes guys like that can be so hard to bowl to because you can’t defend every bit of the ground. It is a great challenge, it is frustrating at times when you are playing against people that. But that is the way that cricket is moving and I think that is great for the game and I think it is just a great spectacle for the fans now.
On his role at the top of the order, of Steven Smith lower down and Bhuvneshwar Kumar who has stood out with the ball
Bhuvi has been unbelievable for us in the tournament. I don’t think he has got as many wickets as he deserves. He is creating a lot of pressure, he is being outstanding. Steven Smith through the middle-order has provided a little bit of innovation in that part. And it is pleasing that guys have stood up and really made a name for themselves when the team is struggling a bit I suppose. But we have pulled hard most of the times and Steven Smith’s is one of the guys who can play a reverse sweep for six. It is just great to see guys like that performing well. And Bhuvi has been outstanding and I suppose that my role at the top of the order is to try and get us off to a quick start. Unfortunately I have been inconsistent at that; hopefully I will perform better.
On his batting
I don’t really use too many tricks; I try and keep it pretty simple. I think I have grown up as a pretty traditional sort of batsman, trying to hit in the normal kind of areas but there are few things that I am working on at the moment that hopefully, if I bat for long enough, you might be able to see towards the end of the tournament.
On the significance and challenges of quick decision which is vital as Allan Donald had said
It is interesting, because as a captain you have to plan three or four overs ahead of the game and every now and then someone comes and puts a spanner in the works, so there is change of plan again. You just have to be so adaptable and be willing to change it up so quickly that sometimes it is very challenging. But when you are going well everything seems to roll on and most decisions that you make seem to be right. So I think that is a part of it, that is quite funny because you don’t have very long to make decisions. It is a game where it all moves so fast, there are a lot of decisions to be made in that time to who you bowl, where you set the field, depending on the batter. It is something you have to embrace, be flexible, be willing to listen to your team-mates because sometimes they come to you with some really good ideas and you have to embrace that and see it as a fun challenge.
On regrouping and challenge for captain and coaches
As a professional cricketer most guys already have the motivation to perform well. Everyone has got a lot of self pride and bit of an ego so everyone needs to perform well to keep feeling that. As captain and coach we just try and set an example at training. And Allan’s got some great ideas and some of the stuff that he has come up with in team meetings and plans has been outstanding. Unfortunately, like I said before things have not really flown our way so far but it is something that we can try and improve. As a cricketer you are searching for endless improvement. I am in no doubt that even Sachin Tendulkar is searching for improvement. There is a reason why nobody has ever mastered this game and that is what makes cricket such a great game. It can be a frustrating game for a player because when you are in good form, things seem to go your way and the shot that you play clears the fielders and when you are in bad form you seem to hit them straight to the fielders.
There are some very good match winners in the team, so what is not working?
I think, at times our bowling has been outstanding, our batting has been outstanding at times and so has our fielding. But, at the moment we just haven’t made it click all on one day. I think an example of that is the game against Chennai Super Kings when we just dominated the game against a very powerful and great side. And I think that showed the guys a lot of confidence and it showed everybody how good we can be, which is also a bit frustrating because we haven’t been able to repeat that consistently. We have trained hard, we have done a lot of things right but it just hasn’t clicked and I don’t feel that is through anyone’s fault. We have been trying to do the right things and it has just been one of those years that the ball, sort of hasn’t bounced our way. Great players make their own luck and I am sure by the back end of this tournament we will be fighting hard to try and scrap, hopefully, five out of five wins in our last few matches.
On the IPL and what he takes with him from the experience?
The IPL has definitely grown and it is a huge tournament to the world now. One of the things that I have taken out of this is great friends. This is my third franchise. I came over to IPL three as a replacement player to Rajasthan Royals and that was an amazing time. I had a great time here in Jaipur and in Ahmedabad where we played and I still have some very great friends from there and my time with Delhi Daredevils. I loved every bit of it and this year too I love it as well.
The people that you get to meet from different cultures and different countries I think is just something that you take for granted a little bit. You have friends for life now and it is just a fantastic thing that happens when people come together with the common interest of winning cricket games. I love India and I don’t think that there are many more beautiful places than Jaipur. And we are lucky to playing in the great city of Pune as well!
Just the way the IPL has grown and the interest from everybody all over the world is amazing.
The way teams are playing now has gone beyond the stage of just crash and bash. Batsmen now come out with a lot of thought, lot of planning that goes into every game. When twenty20 first started, people didn’t think too much about it, but now it is so tactical. The way Indian fans embrace it and support their franchise is amazing. And a perfect example for that are the Pune fans I think. We haven’t had a very successful season so far, but the fans have been coming out and they have been unbelievable. The flag waving and everything is pretty special to me to be there and be part of and I think that is one of the great things about the IPL as well.
There is something about the way the West Indians play their cricket, talk cricket and the way they celebrate on the field. Dwayne Bravo might have sent off Kieron Pollard home on a jet plane last year, or moon walked on the pitch after pouching a catch and Sunil Narine might have run along the ground silently with his one hand raised up after a dismissal.
But, move all that away, because, here isDarren Sammywith his own unique style of celebrating. He has a pacifier tied around his neck and sucks on it, bringing his arms together in a cradling action, each time he has struck with the cherry!
Now where did that kind of a celebration occur in his head? When we at IPLT20.com quizzed the West Indian about his picture perfect celebration Sammy replied, “I just had a baby girl back home and I was in my room thinking about how I would celebrate. I saw my baby girl suck on the pacifier and then I said to myself, ‘OH, I will get my pacifier out after a wicket or a landmark’ and that’s how this style of celebrating came about”.
But what is it with the people of the Caribbean that they add so much flavor to the sport on and off the field? “We West Indians want everyone to know how to celebrate. The thing is we enjoy our cricket. Once you go out there and enjoy your game, the passion always comes out. And that is what comes out when you see West Indians play cricket,” said Sammy after a Man-of-the-Match performance against the Delhi Daredevils on Saturday.
So is the Sammy family keeping a track of his performances back home? Sammy replied with a smile, “Everybody back home is happy with my performances. Not just mine, they love watching the other players in action too. Cricket lovers in West Indies watch the IPL closely and they enjoy seeing a lot of West Indians play in this competition. They have a lot of fun watching us play and always want us to do well”.
Sammy has had just four games in the IPL so far, but he has already made meaningful contributions for his franchise with the bat and ball. For Sammy, it is all about giving back the love and affection to the franchise through his performances. “It has been a great experience for me being a part of the Sunrisers. The Sunrisers have invested in me and I look to go out there and return the favour through my performances on the field. The owners and the mentors are nice and want the team to succeed. I am enjoying every bit of it.”
Sammy also said he was eager than ever to be a part of the IPL. “I just wanted to be a part of the IPL. I came in late and I waited for my opportunity and it was all about grabbing your chances. I am happy I did well in the opportunities I got and would want to make sure that we do well as a team. On the field we play like a family and that is what we have been showcasing in the tournament.”
The Sunrisers next meet the Chennai Super Kings, wherein there could be an on field face-off between Dwayne Bravo and Sammy. But Sammy is more than happy to share a good friendship with his team mate. “Dwayne Bravo and I have a good camaraderie. He has been made captain of the ODI team and I congratulate him on that. I am going to give him my full support like I have done to any other captain.”
SRH look like a promising side in the IPL and have shown a lot of flair in their performances. Sammy said, “I feel we will make it to the Play-Offs. That is our goal at the moment and who knows we might go as far as winning the IPL. We will take one game at a time and improve on our consistency.”
Will we see more varieties in the celebration styles from Sammy in the IPL? “When that time comes, you will see,” winked Sammy.