"My mantra is to keep it as simple as I can" - Finn
In the World Cup, no other England bowler suffered more than Steven Finn. After a disappointing performance, he, like the team has shown a remarkable turn of form in the ODI series against New Zealand, which is heading towards its final match on Saturday.
England’s style of play in this series was very contrasting to that of the one during the World Cup, although, Finn insists that a similar aggressive mindset which was so effective in this series was the plan for that tournament also.
The discharge of Peter Moores as the coach has been presented as primary cause of England’s change of attitude in the ongoing series. Finn, however, insisted that Moores too was trying to instill similar kind of cricket in the team.
"We talked about what we wanted to do in the World Cup," Finn said. "We sat in front of the media and said we wanted to play with freedom and smiles on our faces. We didn't do it. I've been involved in both series and I can't put my finger on why but it seems there has been a huge change in attitude here.
"There's been some personnel changes and those guys have come in and done really well. Everyone is playing with a smile on their face. Even when we walked off the field after going for 350, we felt as though we were in the game. When you are 100 for 0 off 11 overs, everyone is sitting there in the dressing room and there's a real camaraderie with the guys that I've rarely experienced in a dressing room before. It is really exciting."
All credit for the team’s turnaround has gone to the England batsmen but Finn too has played a major role and staged his own comeback after being their most expensive bowler in the World Cup, and then left out of the tour to West Indies to where he is now.
Finn is the joint top wicket-taker in this series and has been the most economical bowler amongst those who have played three or more matches. He conceded 5.67 runs an over, which would have been considered expensive prior to the start of this series. The bowler also recognised how much the game has changed.
"It is about accepting that the game has changed. [Brendon] McCullum hit me over wide long-off for six and I thought, 'that was probably hitting the top of off stump'. So you have to walk back and think, 'fair play, that was a good shot'. It's that sort of attitude that bowlers are having to take into games.
"It's like playing a long Twenty20. You almost have to accept that you're going to be hit for boundaries, you have to accept that people will play good shots. It's just trying to make sure they are playing good shots to get their boundaries and they are not hitting bad balls. It has changed big time since the World Cup. To come into this series and for there to be scores regularly of around 350, as a bowler you have to change your mindset and go about things slightly differently.
"It's been tricky so far but it's been really exciting. We have a good, young, very talented group of players at the moment. We've talked a lot about playing with a carefree attitude and playing with freedom - we talked a lot about it in the winter but never did it - so it's great that four games in a row now, win or lose, we've played with that attitude. It has stood us in good stead so far."
This is Finn’s second turnaround to international cricket after being left out of the West Indies tour, following his first resurgence after he was labeled “ unselectable” during the Ashes tour of 2013-14.
"When I came back from that Australia tour, we stripped everything back and went right back to basics," Finn said. "It's been a case of grooving that over the last 18 months. To be now feeling in control of what I'm doing when I'm at the end of my mark is a nice feeling and something I want to keep doing. I learned a lot about my bowling and my action in that time and I feel as though I have a really good understanding of it now. I don't feel as though I've ever bowled this consistent in terms of where I'm bowling it. I'd love to get that high-end pace back 100 per cent all the time that I had when I was taking wickets a lot a few years ago. That's something I'm working towards but I'm happy where I am at the moment.
"My mantra is very much to keep it as simple as I can. When I've done alright in T20s and one-dayers, it is about keeping it as simple as you can. If you're clouded at the end of your mark or clouded when you're running up, that generally leads to you bowling a poor ball. So it is about having a clear plan and saying, 'if you hit me while I'm bowling to this plan, then you've got the better of me and are too good for me today'. It's about finding plans for each batsman and you try not to bowl to their strengths."
Finn was included in the 14-man training squad which is to be sent to Spain ahead of the Ashes. He is now eyeing a return in the Test arena.
"Well my last Test match was in the last Ashes over here nearly two years ago. I'd love to be involved. I'm going to have to keep bowling well and taking wickets for Middlesex. I dream and hope and wish I can play in this Ashes series but I can't change what I'm doing in order to do that. I can just keep plugging away, keep trying to get better, keep feeling that rhythm, keep feeling as if I'm getting better. If that gets me in the Ashes squad, then great."