“The way you conduct yourself on the pitch is very important. I’d rather keep my mouth shut and let the ball do the talking.”
England cricketer Steve Finn is a man ready for the next challenge. Part of the successful England cricket squad that came so close to winning the final of the ICC Champions Trophy last weekend, the next test on the horizon is perhaps much bigger – the Ashes. It’s one that could cement his name in the history books, at a relatively young age, should he deliver on the pitch this summer.
Elysium Magazine spoke exclusively with the England fast bowler to get his take on the upcoming Ashes series, his cricketing heroes growing up, and why he’s not closed the door to a career in modelling just yet.
Elysium Magazine: Firstly, commiserations on the result at the weekend – the team was very close! How did it feel knowing you guys were so near to that elusive title?
Steve Finn: We played some really good cricket to get into the final and unfortunately we came up short on the day. We fancied ourselves over the longer format of the game. To get to that final was an achievement in itself but we were bitterly disappointed that we didn’t get over the line. But I think we can learn from what happened last Sunday and we can use it to move forward.
EM: Indeed, there are still plenty of positives to take away from the tournament. What do you feel are the biggest plus-points for you and the team?
SF: The way that we stuck to our game plan and the way, more often than not, it came off. We worked hard to ensure that it happen like that. This was a great positive. Also, everyone who played did something to earn their place in the team. I thought it was a good all-round team performance from us throughout the tournament and that’s why we got to the final.
EM: This week’s news about the sacking of Mickey Arthur as Australia coach ahead of the Ashes obviously came as a shock to everyone, especially with the timing of the announcement. Darren Lehmann is now the man in charge with just over two weeks to prepare before the start of the series. Do you think this gives England any advantage heading into the Ashes series?
SF: No I don’t think so. What Australia do off the field is entirely their prerogative. All we’re going to do is focus on what we do well. We each know our individual roles within the team. We know as individuals, and as a group, what it is that we need to do for England to perform. What happens on the other side of the court is none of our business; we just need to take care of what happens on our side.
EM: Australia pose many dangers despite the change in coach. Who is their danger man in your opinion?
SF: I think Michael Clarke is a big player for them obviously. The captain is always the pivotal player in the team. The fact that he’s been their leading run scorer through recent games highlights that he’s going to be an important wicket for us to pick up. Their bowlers are strong too and could take advantage of English conditions so we’ll need to be wary and on our guard. We’ll need to be ready to counteract that. I think in general they are a very good team with lots of cricketers who could affect the outcome of the game – that’s the danger. It’ll be a hard fought series and I’m looking forward to trying to get my teeth into it.
EM: Any particular ways you can try cope with the threat they pose?
SF: No – again I think focusing on what we do well with help us more. As a batsman or bowler, if you keep working on what you’re best at that will hopefully be enough to counteract the threat of Australia. We have a four-day warm up game against Essex coming that will be important for us to build momentum and to get used to playing with each other again. It’ll be important to use that game wisely – to get overs under our belt as bowlers and for batsman to get runs on the board.
EM: How are you feeling, both physically and mentally, as you head into the Ashes series?
SF: I feel really good. I played three games of cricket in the last month now so I’m fresh and raring to go. I just want to get out there and start playing again. I felt good in the nets when I’ve bowled but I suppose you’ll only be able to tell when I get into a game.
EM: You burst onto the international scene in explosive fashion – how do you feel your test career has progressed since those first appearances against Bangladesh?
SF: I feel as though I’m a much better bowler now than I was back then. I feel more skilful as a bowler too. I’ve not played as many games as I may have done – I’ve only played 22 tests I think in the three years I’ve been around – I’d have liked to have played more but there’s not a lot I can do about that. I just need to keep working on trying to get better which I feel as though I am and hopefully that’ll stand me in good stead moving forwards. I’ve done a lot of developing over the last three years since I came onto the scene and I feel better for it.
EM: Younus Khan said he loves the aggression and hostility in your bowling – is aggression a conscious characteristic of your style or just a standard by-product of any fast bowler? Do you have to be aggressive to bowl fast?
SF: I suppose aggression is a very key part of being a fast bowler. But when you say aggression – it’s not screaming and shouting in the batsmen’s faces, it’s about letting the ball do the talking. The way you conduct yourself on the pitch is very important. I’d rather keep my mouth shut and let the ball do the talking. It’s something you develop as you go through your career and you learn what works for you. I still feel like I’m learning.
EM: In your opinion, who is the greatest English fast bowler ever, and the greatest ever in the world?
That’s a very good question. I’m very fortunate to be playing with James Anderson at the moment – the way that he can work a batsman out and the way he leads the attack has been unbelievable over the last three years. Ever since I’ve started playing for England, he’s been the most skill bowler I’ve been lucky enough to play with. James Anderson and Stuart Broad together are going to be two of the greatest bowlers the country has seen. When I was younger I enjoyed watching Steve Harmison, Freddie Flintoff, Andrew Caddick – the tall guys. I learnt a lot off them when I was younger.
I think the greatest fast bowler ever has been Glenn McGrath because of the skill that he had along with the pace and aggression he showed. As I was growing up I loved watching him bowl and going about his stuff. For me, he is probably the greatest fast bowler ever.
EM: Who was your cricketing hero growing up and why?
SF: I think Glenn McGrath was probably the one for me. I loved everything about the way he bowled and the way he conducted himself. I sort of immersed myself in that.
EM: How do you think you can still improve your bowling action?
SF: You’re always working on developing new skills. Whether that’s learning to move the ball in a different way, different deliveries, controlling the pace or bowling around the wicket – all the time you’re learning. At the moment I’m learning to play around with my seam position which affects what the ball does when it reaches the batsman. It’s an important skill to develop and all the best fast bowlers in the world do that.
EM: When do you think fast bowlers reach their peak?
SF: You’re always learning. Even someone like James Anderson is learning new skills as he goes through his career. I suppose the later in your career you get the more skills and experience you build up and are able to use. I don’t feel that I’m at my peak yet as I’ve still got a lot of developing to go.
Someone like James Anderson is a fine example of how you mature as you go through your career – he was a young bowler who had all the skills which he’s developed and honed and now he’s up there with the best fast bowlers in the world. I can take confidence from how he’s done that. I need to keep working on my game and hope that it happens to me in the same way through my own hard work too.
EM: James Anderson is a great example of someone who has adapted his bowling style as the years have gone by to devastating effect. Can you think of anyone else in the modern game that has been as successful as him making such a transition?
SF: I don’t know if James has made a big transition as he’s always been a swing bowler. As he’s gone through his career he’s learn how to use and control them better. No one really springs to mind who’s really changed themselves considerably. But the way James has gone about honing those skills has been very impressive and something that every cricketer can learn from.
EM: Which female athlete have you seen who you think would make a great fast bowler and why?
SF: I reckon someone like Maria Sharapova perhaps. She’s tall, she looks quite strong and explosive. The action of serving a tennis ball is a little bit similar to bowling a cricket ball – she’d bowl a heavy ball.
EM: Looking to the future, can you tell us about the ambitions and targets you’ve set for yourself? What will be your definition to success?
SF: I’ve set no actual targets just yet as that’s really difficult to do at this stage of my career i.e. set numerical targets. But I’d like to become a real regular in every format of the game for England. If I do that across the next 10 years then that means I’ve been a successful bowler and I’ve been a part of a successful England team. It’s important that we have team success and if I can provide contributions to a successful England team then I’d be very happy.
EM: You’re a Watford fan, is Gianfranco Zola the real deal?
Yes I think he is. Watford had a tricky start to the season (2012-2013) but as it went on the group of players gelled together and played some really good football. He’s instilled a culture of really good football at the club – whenever I went to watch them they’ve played some great football. Last season we were blessed with having some really good players on loan that bodes well for the young English players at the club who can learn from them and develop their skills further.
I’m hopeful for the coming season. The Championship is a very difficult league to get out of. It’ll be a tough ask but if they start the season as well as they finished the last two-thirds of the previous season then I see no reason why Watford can’t get promoted.
EM: How you do like to unwind outside of cricket?
SF: There are a few things. I enjoy going to the theatre when I’m in London – I recently went to see Rock of Ages which was very good. It’s the second time I’ve seen it and it was great. Other than this it’s the usual things – music, Xbox etc. You spend plenty of time travelling around the country so you get to listen to music a lot. When we travel abroad someone will usually bring their Xbox so it’s handy to have. Jonathan Trott is probably the best on the Xbox – he puts in the hours!
EM: Looking at style, do you have any favourite menswear brands?
SF: I like The Kooples and they’re probably up there as my favourite at the moment.
EM: You’ve got the height for modelling – was there any thinking about going into the modelling world at all?
SF: [Laughs] I’ve never actually been asked before! I never deemed myself good looking enough to be a model. I’d probably say no at the moment but I’m open to offers…
EM: Travel is obviously a great perk of being a cricketer but where do you like to go on holiday?
SF: At the end of the New Zealand tour this winter I had a great week in Fiji which was nice and relaxing – it’s something I really enjoyed. I’ve not actually done much travelling around Europe so I’d like to visit some of the major cities there at some stage – Milan, Paris etc. I just need to find the time!
EM: Finally, if you weren’t a cricketer, what job would you love to have?
SF: That’s a good question, I’ve never really thought about it. I quite like to be a musician actually. I don’t play any instruments, apart from playing the violin when I was younger – which I regret, I should have played the guitar instead. I’d like to be a guitar player in a band. I love live music and wish I could get to see more of it but with the travelling we do it’s difficult. But living so close to Camden I feel I should get into town more and go to gigs.
The first Ashes Test starts on Wednesday 10th July 2013.