Over the next week, Aaron Finch will break a record. And yet it's a record he hopes he will not hold forever. Assuming he does not miss any of the three T20s against Sri Lanka, Finch will overtake David Hussey to become the man with the most international caps for Australia without having played a Test. Hussey finished his career with 108 combined ODIs and T20Is; Finch begins this series on 107. But he still dreams of a baggy green.
It is a goal that may or may not happen, but at least Finch has improved his chances by greater first-class output over the past few years. At times, Finch has not even found a place in Victoria's Sheffield Shield XI, but before Christmas this summer he produced his first Shield century for six and a half years. County assignments with Yorkshire and Surrey have helped him find his way in long-form cricket.
And Finch freely admits that he had lost his way. In the past three years, Finch has averaged 54.53 as a first-class batsman; in his entire career until then, he had averaged 27.47.
"I think it was a combination of a few things," Finch told ESPNcricinfo. "There were a couple of small technical flaws - at the time I was batting at No.3 for Victoria - that probably got exposed a little bit more with the moving red ball compared to the white ball that swings for a handful of overs. As an opening batter in the shorter form, your job is to go out there and try and make a real statement early on in the game. That risk-reward is slightly more in your favour in the shorter forms.
"I missed out a few times and started to doubt my technique, and then I started to doubt my ability, and then I got into a real bad case - my self-talk was all negative. It was almost as if I was walking out there to bat just hoping to do well, and if I got any runs it was almost a surprise, because I'd just talked myself out of it before I started. It wasn't until I thought, 'you know what, this is doing nothing for your career'.
"I wasn't very happy, to be honest. I always had the shits because I wasn't getting runs, but I wasn't helping myself in any way, shape or form at the same time to do anything about it. That was a combination of a bit of technique and a real mental battle that I was having with my game, and also with myself. It's something over time that I've learnt to deal with."
Finch's talent has never been in doubt - hence his regular presence at the top of the order in Australia's ODI and T20 teams over the past few years - but his struggles in the longer form might have led to some observers writing him off as a red-ball player. However, Finch is now coming off 102 in his last Shield game before Christmas and 49 and 71 in Victoria's low-scoring win over South Australia this week, and he is looking forward to more Shield cricket after the upcoming T20s against Sri Lanka.
"It's always good when you get a good run of four-day cricket in a row," Finch said. "I've been lucky enough to have that in England the last three years. I really enjoyed being able to prepare in blocks, whether it be for three or four games in a row. I just feel like I hadn't had that opportunity in Australia - through my own fault as well, through not making enough runs to warrant being picked every time.
"But I'm really excited about four-day cricket. I still want to play Test cricket - that's why I choose to go to the UK and play some county cricket instead of taking on the T20 circuit. I still want to play Test cricket ... I think having a little bit of consistency with where I've batted has helped. I think I've batted four, five and six with Victoria, Yorkshire and Surrey.
"That's a place I enjoy batting - in the middle order in the longer form. I'm comfortable mentally and technically with where my game's at, which makes you walk out into the middle a bit more excited, a bit more upbeat about what's going to happen. Whether you get runs or not, that's a different story."