Steve Finn interview
Injury looks set to rule Steven Finn out of next week’s first Test against India, but England’s giant paceman is still looking to make his mark – both on this tour and in a big year of cricket to come…
Seventeen months ago, against Sri Lanka at Lord’s, the then 22-year-old Steven Finn became the youngest English cricketer in history to take 50 Test wickets. It was a record he inherited from the greatest of all his predecessors, Sir Ian Botham, and rounded off a perfect six-month period in which he had contributed in no small measure to England’s historic Ashes win in Australia.
This, it seemed, was a young cricketer going places – and fast. Yet, with England set to begin one of the toughest series in Test cricket – away in India – next Thursday, Finn’s involvement looks set to be restricted to an all-too familiar role of recent times: watching from the sidelines.
A thigh strain picked up in the first warm-up game of the current tour has robbed the Middlesex man of a likely starting place alongside Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad in the England pace attack – but the fact is that, since that Sri Lanka game in early June 2011, Finn has featured in only four of 16 Test matches for his country.
“I made my international debut in Test cricket and was almost pigeonholed as a Test cricketer for the first 12 months of my career,“ reflects Finn in an interview with Sport. “Now I’ve developed my limited-overs skills and variations, and become a better bowler in one-day and Twenty20 cricket without nailing down that Test spot. Obviously that’s something that is high on my agenda of things to do, because Test cricket is what you want to be playing. I mean, I love playing Twenty20 and one-day cricket, but playing Test cricket for your country is on a whole different level.“
Standing 6ft 7ins, Finn offers a brand of pace and bounce no one else in the current England squad can match, and would seem to be ideally set up for Test cricket.
His recently developed habit of flicking the stumps on his way through his bowling action infuriates some, but it is his economy rate that many identify as the reason he is yet to become an England Test regular.
“I suppose when I started, I was a little bit expensive,“ he admits. “But I still managed to take wickets, which is probably what kept me in the team. I mean, my economy rate in Tests [3.66] isn’t terrible – but it’s not great either. I set myself very high standards, and it’s probably not up to scratch by those standards. But I’ve proved in the past 18 months, when I’ve played limited-overs cricket for England, that my economy rate has been as good as anyone’s. I think I go at 4.67 runs an over in one-day internationals, and my T20 rate is okay as well [he’s right – it’s 6.70] – and there’s no reason why I can’t transfer that into Test cricket.
“The criticism of my knack of leaking runs hasn’t been unfair, but I was young at the time and I’d back myself now to be able to hold an end up and not give away as many runs. I feel like I’ve learned and developed a lot over the last 18 months – hopefully, if I get a chance in the Test team in India, I can show people and prove them wrong.“
Finn is an affable character whose laid-back demeanour and penchant for drifting into chats about his beloved Football Manager make it easy to miss the ambition that burns within. Ask him whether he would like to take the new ball for England, however, and it soon becomes clear.
“The guys who have opened the bowling for the past two or three years have been exceptional,“ he says. “Broady and Jimmy have both been brilliant, so I think it would be hard for me to knock either of them off their perch. I’m not saying it’s not something I’m aspiring to, though, because I’ve enjoyed taking the new ball in one-day and T20 cricket – and it’s something I’ve done for Middlesex since I was 18 or 19 years old.
It’s something I’m accustomed to and really enjoy, but I just have to make sure I’m fit and ready for whatever the team needs me to do.“
Recovering from the aforementioned thigh strain is number one on that particular list, because a fit and firing Finn could prove quite the handful for a transitional Indian batting line-up.
“I’ve always enjoyed bowling on subcontinent pitches because you need a different set of skills – and I think that suits me,“ he says.
“You need to be able to reverse-swing the ball, your changes of angles on the crease are important, and having that bit of pace also helps on those sorts of wickets.
“There’s definitely room for aggression, too. We saw that India struggled with the short ball when they came over to England last summer, and just because the wickets are slower there’s no reason why you can’t still use it. Aggression is a very big part of how we bowl as a unit – not words or sledging, but in the way you bowl the ball and your body language. That’s why I used to love watching Glenn McGrath so much.“
Finn is not the first England bowler to call out the Australian great as his hero – Stuart Broad did so in an interview ahead of the recent World Twenty20 – but he also reserves special mention for a current teammate. “I’ve been lucky enough to share a lot of time with Jimmy [Anderson] in the dressing room, and he’s a great person to speak to,“ he reveals.
“I think he sees a bit of me in him when he was younger, but he’s been there, done it and experienced exactly what I have in the early part of my career. I’m lucky to have people like him around me to help me through tougher times.“
A NEW BREED
If Finn is the coming man in England’s bowling attack, then the 24-year-old Virat Kohli is his equivalent in the Indian batting line-up. It’s no surprise to discover that the two are already well acquainted.
“Kohli is an exceptional player and he always has been,“ smiles Finn. “We’ve been playing against each other since we were 17, and even then it was obvious that he was an excellent batsman. He already has a very good record in Test cricket, and an even better one in one-dayers – but he’s not invincible, and we have a very good track record when it comes to getting the big men out.“
On which note, how does Finn feel about the prospect of bowling at the great Sachin Tendulkar in what many are suggesting could be the little master’s final Test series?
“There’s been talk of that, but we’ll see how it goes,“ he says. “The bloke averages 55 in Test cricket and obviously still loves the game; it’d be a shame to see him on the downward slope, but you can’t play the man – you have to play only the batsman in front of you, no matter what his name is. It would be nice to say I was the last person to take Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket in Tests – definitely something to tell the grandkids, but that’s a long way off yet.“
In the more immediate future, Finn admits more than a passing interest in playing in the IPL – but only if his schedule allows. “Playing for England is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid, and that’s my number-one priority,“ he affirms. “The IPL is exciting and would be a great tournament to play in, but only when the time is right. I’d never do anything to compromise my chances when it comes to playing for England – especially in the next 12 months, when he have a tour to New Zealand, a Champions Trophy and huge back-to-back Ashes series.
“I feel as though I’ve had a good year and made strides from where I was last year, but I’m still a long way from where I want to be.
I want to be a regular in the Test side for all those big games – hopefully I can sit here this time next year having achieved that.“
Tony Hodson @tonyhodson1
Steven Finn is an ambassador for Graham watches – see graham-london.com. Flip through two pages for our match preview of England’s first Test against India