By: Chinmay Vaidya
It's been an interesting year for Aaron Finch.
Coming into Australia's tour against Pakistan in the UAE, Finch was averaging 22.18 runs per inning from June last year to through February of this year. He had one century to his name and long run of bad form as Australia's captain. Ever since the ban on Steve Smith and David Warner, Finch has been thrust into an unfamiliar leadership role and the pressure showed. His World Cup spot was in doubt.
Five matches and a 5-0 whitewash of Pakistan later, Finch appears to be set as a key cog in Australia's top order. He scored 451 runs in the series, by far the most of any batsman for either side. He had two centuries and two half-centuries and affected every single match. For an Australia squad peaking at the right time and getting its superstars back, Finch's run of good form is a welcome sight.
Usman Khawaja and Glenn Maxwell put in their own strong campaigns for World Cup roster spots with three half-centuries a piece. Khawaja was an anchor at the top of the batting lineup and Maxwell regained his destructive power. Two months ago, Australia was looking lost in its search for a competent World Cup squad. All of a sudden, the team is looking like a championship contender with Smith and Warner back in the fold.
On the flip side, it's been a fall from grace for Pakistan in ODI competitions. The top order of Fakhar Zaman, Imam ul-Haq and Babar Azam have failed to deliver on their promising starts. Mohammad Rizwan looks like a competent middle order batsman, but Pakistan keep running Shoaib Malik out there like he's going to turn the clock back 15 years. Umar Akmal and Imad Wasim look washed out. Where the hell is Sarfaraz Ahmed, the captain of the winning side in the 2017 Champions Trophy? Ever since flaming out in the Asia Cup semifinal, Pakistan hasn't been the same.
Six months ago, these two sides were trending in very opposite directions. Pakistan was looking like a dark horse for the World Cup while Australia was headed for a early exit. Now, the tables have turned. With Finch, Khawaja and Maxwell clicking and superstars back in the squad, Australia is back in the contender's circle.