Willis backs Finn to shine
Bob Willis expects paceman Steven Finn to impress if called upon during England’s four-Test series against India.
Finn was widely expected to feature in the opening encounter, yet suffered a thigh injury in the first warm-up match.
He was subsequently held back at Ahmedabad, with the hope being that his fitness would improve for the second Test in Mumbai.
However, in the build up to that clash, the fast bowler aggravated the injury and missed out once more.
Yet Finn is now fully fit and playing for the England Performance Programme against a DY Patil Academy XI today in the hope of a Test return at Kolkata.
Willis told ecb.co.uk: “People with very long memories have compared Steven Finn to myself and, if you’ve got a tall bowler that can get bounce from a good length, he is certainly going to ruffle any batsman - even on dead pitches.
“It’s a great shame that he sustained that injury early on. There’s precious little cricket in among international fixtures these days, so it’s difficult to get match fit.
“But I think England will think about the balance of their side and I hope he has got a role to play. He’s always been a wicket-taker in the Tests he has played.
“He bowled superbly in the one-day international series in India 18 months ago, so I think he has got plenty to offer.”
The comparisons certainly seem astute and Alastair Cook may well decide to utilise Finn in the same way Tony Greig did Willis during England’s incredible 3-1 success in India 35 years ago.
In 1976-77, Willis was used in short bursts by Greig and the results were impressive: 20 wickets at an average of 16.75 in 135 overs.
When it was suggested Finn could be given in a similar role, Willis responded: “That’s right.
“Greigy looked after me fantastically. I hardly played a match in between the Test matches and, as you say, I did not bowl an enormous number of overs.
“John Lever, Derek Underwood and Greigy himself did most of the donkey work and I was just asked to come in and bowl in short bursts as fast as I could. That certainly worked in the second and third Test matches.”
Willis is not the only with his fingers crossed; England bowling coach David Saker is also keeping a keen eye on Finn's progress.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed he gets through, number one; if he gets through unscathed and bowls well, his name will definitely be talked about for selection,” said Saker, with an eye to Kolkata.
“He’s got that x-factor, a bit of pace, that height that always means you could get variable bounce over here.”
Finn appeared to be recovering well before the aforementioned setback prior to the second Test, and for that reason England are taking nothing for granted.
“We were really confident he’d be right for this Test, so I’m not sure,” said Saker. “I’ve just got my fingers crossed he gets through; if he does, we can make a decision.
“We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We want to make sure he gets through his three or four spells and gets some rhythm; then his name will come up.”
It is no surprise Willis and Saker hope Finn recovers, with the former - in particular - holding the 23-year-old in high regard.
“I think he could become very good because he is increasing his pace at a vital time in his career,” added Willis.
“We used to say a fast bowler is at his peak between the ages of 28 and 32, but it’s probably a little bit younger than that now because of how much cricket is played.
“He has got to somehow force his way into the side and get a long run in the team because that’s the way he is really going to develop.”