Finn Allen’s Coming Of Age

  • 03 Feb - 09 Feb, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Sports

The most remarkable phenomenon among the next-gen batters is perhaps their brazen mindset, instead of the conventional direction, the journey of these pinch-hitters now starts in reverse gear. Batters have now forced themselves into longer formats with their T20-style approach. Given the license to go all out, the young crop has demonstrated what can be achieved in the format where wickets are at the highest premium by simply not caring about that value. Anyone up for some ‘Bazball’?

Finn Allen as the case in point. He epitomises the T20 opener prototype, striking the ball with brute force reminiscent of his country’s legacy of power hitters such as Mark Greatbatch and Brendon McCullum. The 2022-23 season proved challenging for Finn Allen. Starting with a disappointing performance in the 2022 T20 World Cup, where he managed only 95 runs in five innings, his ODI form also dimmed after a promising beginning. A year later, he found himself excluded from the squad for the ODI World Cup in India. However, this summer has been a standout period for him in T20s.

Whirlwind Of An Innings
Finn recorded an explosive 137 runs from 62 balls during the third T20I against Pakistan, adorned with a groundbreaking 16 sixes, setting a new record for the highest score by a New Zealand player in T20Is. What factors have contributed to this remarkable shift in his performance this season? "I think I'm just evaluating risk and times that I want to take a high-risk option," he said after the Pakistan game. "I'm working on just adapting to the scenario better, situations better, and I guess picking my moments to go. I'm basically trying to have a stable base and build off that and expand my game from there."
The display of a solid foundation was evident in Dunedin, where he relied on his flourishing golf-like swings and precise hand-eye coordination to execute all his sixes within the range from long-off to square leg. Maintaining a poised stance, he adeptly directed shots either down the ground or handled short deliveries with pulls, capitalising on Pakistan's lapses in length, even if it involved a change of pace.
Pakistan inadvertently aided Allen by consistently bowling too short, a tactic that initially seemed favourable for Haris Rauf when he dismissed Devon Conway early in the match. However, Rauf's second over, which also marked the conclusion of the power play, turned disastrous, yielding 28 runs, with 27 of them coming from Allen's bat. Allen continued his aggressive approach during Rauf's second spell, never easing up on the pressure.

Lightning Fast Strike Rate
Finn Allen's bat dances with the revelation of an epiphany. The impact, resounding and powerful, pierces the silence like an enlightening moment at dawn. A flurry of sixes from Finn's bat not only set a new record but also demoralised Pakistan, securing an unassailable lead for New Zealand in the series. Throughout the series, New Zealand had been aggressive with the bat, and Allen amplified that approach. Notably, Allen's 16 sixes in this innings tie the record for the highest number in a T20I inning.
Crucially, the recent series demonstrates that Allen can not only achieve a high strike rate but has also attained consistency. His well-deserved “Man of the Series” award attests to this consistency, providing a positive outlook for both, Allen and New Zealand as they prepare for the T20 World Cup in June this year.
Players like Allen adopt an aggressive playing style because they consciously prioritise maximising their impact on every ball over preserving their wicket. This strategy was evident in the 2022 T20 World Cup opening match, where Allen, in just four overs at the crease, significantly disrupted the defending champions Australia, causing a substantial blow to their net run rate – a fact acknowledged by their then captain Aaron Finch.

Trading On Sheer Instincts
However, such remarkable performances come with a cost. Since then, Allen has only managed six scores of 30 or more in 26 innings for New Zealand. The pursuit of extracting the maximum runs from every ball has become ingrained in Allen's instincts, and taming such instincts is a challenging task. It's akin to attempting not to laugh at a good joke – before you realise it, it has already happened. This is why achieving excellence across all formats is a rare feat. It demands being three different players in one, as exemplified by AB de Villiers or Jasprit Bumrah. Allen's idol, Kevin Pietersen, likely falls into that elite category as well. Despite the risks, he is determined not to lose his X-factor.
He is willing to gamble everything for it. Allen has said, "Something I'm working on at the moment is around consistency in my game. Trying to figure out my method to be consistent but still strike at a high strike rate, I guess. You have to be okay with failure at times and you have to, I guess, be thick-skinned in a way because there's going to be peaks and troughs along the way. The highs are going to be really high and the lows can be really low.”

The Way Fans Desire Cricket
"At the end of the day, we're entertainers, right? We're here to put a show on for the crowd and get their money's worth, and that's the way I want to play my cricket," expressed Allen. In certain aspects, Allen entered international cricket prematurely. His dominance against fast bowlers in the lower levels, showcasing proficiency on both sides of the wicket and against various lengths, created a compelling case for his inclusion. However, once on the international stage, he discovered that while he had a solid plan A, he lacked a reliable fallback option, or at least one that aligned with his desired effectiveness.
"I've found it a lot tougher in ODI cricket," he said continued, "Bowlers bowl a bit more attackingly. If they get hurt early on, they can still come at you aggressively because they've got time later in the game to pull their figures back and pull it back in the team. So I guess it's been more of a challenge of my method, if anything; the mental challenge around sticking at it for longer and being able to stick to your processes for longer."
Achieving higher honours will inevitably require a degree of restraint. The critical question, however, is determining the extent of that restraint. Allen, driven by a strong desire for elevated recognition, faces the challenge of finding the right balance. “It's almost fuel to the fire, you know [every time you aren't picked in the team]. You take time to process it. Grieve a little bit and yeah, we've got a big summer coming up and hopefully I can still make some strides,” Allen has expressed.
In hushed tones, Finn Allen's cricket prowess unfolds like the rejuvenating sip of a well-brewed coffee on a tumultuous morning – hitting the ball with the exact blend of strength and precision, just like the perfect jolt to brighten a challenging start.

About the writer
Shahzeb Ali Rizvi is a sports aficionado with a keen eye for the intricacies of cricket and football. He can be reached at [email protected]