Kathakali has been a journalist for a decade and a half, working previously with The Telegraph and Times of India. An MA in political science and a Chevening Fellow, she writes on various themes--the business of sports, pop culture, startups, innovation--and co-produces the video series, From the Field. She is also part of the desk, editing, rewriting and putting the print edition to bed. Kathakali is a sports nut and collects autographs as a hobby. She enjoys travelling and music, and you'll often find her humming completely out of tune.
Aaron Finch poses for a photograph after announcing his retirement from international cricket during a press conference at Melbourne Cricket Ground on February 07, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. Image: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
Growing up on a three-acre property in Colac, Victoria, Aaron Finch’s earliest sporting ambitions included beating his older sibling Jason. “Or, at least, be as good as him,” he smiles. But he didn’t stop just at that. The aggressive batter debuted for Australia in 2011, and by the time he retired, clocked the maximum runs for his country in T20Is. En route, he also captained Australia on ODIs and T20Is and led his country to its first T20 World Cup in 2021. In India as an expert on Star Sports’ IPL commentary panel, Finch spoke to Forbes India about the lessons he’s learnt from playing at the elite level for over a decade. Edited excerpts:
‘The freedom to choose is the best motivator’
My entire family has had a huge influence on my career. My parents sacrificed immensely for me—we lived two hours away from Melbourne, so they would often put aside whatever they were doing, take out the car and drive me to tryouts and practice sessions.
When you are younger, you don’t always understand what your parents do for you. But once you get older, you realise that your parents getting up at 4 am just so that they can drive you a couple of hours to a training session is a big sacrifice. As a family, we spent quite a lot of time in the car. My younger sister grew up travelling around, watching me try and make teams. Yet, they never pushed me to be a cricketer. And that's the key because pushing kids to do something might turn them away from it. My parents gave me the option of not going if I didn’t want to, and I just kept turning up.
‘Look for not the feedback you want, but the right feedback’
I was dropped from the Australian T20 team at a time I was the No. 1 T20 batter in the world. When things like that happen, you can get angry, and frustrated, you perceive problems to be bigger than what they are. I was hurt at being dropped because, in the lead-up to that, I was the captain of the side and felt I was playing well. To lose the captaincy and the spot in the side for the first game against New Zealand…I didn’t deal with it very well. For times like these, you need to have a close circle of people you can lean on and who are honest with you. Sometimes they can put their arm around you and guide you through, but, at times, they should be able to kick you when you need it and can't see it yourself. For me, this group comprised Andrew McDonald, the current Australian coach who I've been close to 20 years, former cricketer Brad Hodge, and a few other friends who were always there to tell me things were never as good or as bad as they seemed. It's not that they would always give me the feedback that I wanted, they gave me the right feedback. Also read: No one has all the answers, we figure it out: Ellyse Perry
‘Don’t chase external validation, especially on social media’
I mentioned in an interview before that while evaluating my Test career, I realised I was listening to too much advice. This noise can be quite distracting for modern cricketers, who also have to deal with social media, where everyone has an opinion on what they should be doing. How do you keep the focus amid that? It's extremely hard. I had once spoken to Sachin [Tendulkar] about both the bouquets and brickbats that come on social media. He had told me, "I don't need people to tell me I am playing well, because I know I am playing well. Similarly, I also don't need people to tell when I am playing poor, because I know that too." That's exactly how it is. As for me, my wife and sister find it upsetting when negative comments are posted. When it affects people close to you, best to step away from it. So, I've stopped scrolling through a few social media platforms. Also read: Don't fear pressure, deal with it: Jhulan Goswami
‘A clear mind is your best shot at success’
I must also mention that the people giving me inputs about my Test career back in 2018 were all doing it without any malice. They were all trying to help. But if I were to go back to that Test series against India, I would prepare differently. I still remember that on the morning of the game against India in Adelaide, I was tinkering with my technique. In the three-day lead-up to a big Test match, I was trying to make significant changes to my footwork pattern. I didn't succeed because I didn't go into the match with a clear mind. If I had my time again, I would appreciate everyone's support, but I would put that to one side, and if I was going to fail, I would fail on my terms. Maybe the result wouldn’t have been any different, but I didn't give myself the chance to succeed because my mind was too clouded. Also read: Setbacks will make you stronger, better: Jemimah Rodrigues
'Build trust, in each other and within the group'
When you come together as a cricket team, everyone has got one goal: To win. That's the easy part. Understanding each player individually is a big part of how you get there. You have to get the different things that make different people tick. For example, both Glenn Maxwell and David Warner want the same result for Australia. But how they get there is different. Understanding what motivates people is super important, and that takes time. As a leader, you've got to prepare to know people deeply. And with that, you build trust in each other and within the group. Sometimes, as a leader, you have to take a hard call for the betterment of the group. Like dropping a player from the team. You've got to be honest with him/her when you communicate the news and give proper feedback. Tell them this is why they are going to be left out. They might not agree with it at the time, but they will appreciate the honesty. Also read: A leader must learn to take bold decisions: Graeme Smith
‘In tough times, take a step back’
The most important life lesson I've learnt from my career? Don't be too hard on yourself. There will be times when you might be out of form, or a call won't go your way. Those are the times we tend to over-catastrophise the situation. The older I've got, the more I've understood that when times are tough, I should give myself a break, go easy on myself and see what I could have done differently. Plan forward. When you are in the moment, everything seems so dramatic. Take a step back, speak to people close to you, be vulnerable at times, and you will see a path forward.