‘Jiyas, you my bhai, thank you’: Indian spinner recalls association with Aaron Finch

The most prized possession in K K Jiyas’ showcase at his Kerala home is the Australian men’s ODI cap bearing No. 197 – that of Aaron Finch, signed by the just-retired former Australian captain himself. Its flap carries the words: “Jiyas, you my bhai, thank you”.

The left-arm wrist-spinner (chinaman) was associated with the Australian team for nearly three years from 2017 in various tours as a net bowler to help their batters get better against spin bowling. Finch wrote those words and gave the cap to Jiyas after Australia overturned a 0-2 deficit to register a 3-2 win in the ODI series in India in 2019.

“After the fifth game in Delhi, Finchy came up and offered me his cap. That’s when I asked for an autograph. He was so generous to thank me and write those words. It was an experience I will never forget,” Jiyas told indianexpress.com on Tuesday after Finch announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket.

“I am not happy that he has retired now. He could have easily played on for at least a couple of more years, at least in T20Is,” said Jiyas, 31, who played age-group cricket for Kerala.

“He is looking to give opportunities to the next generation. That has been the hallmark of his personality. He never played the game for himself. It was always for the team and his teammates. He is a friendly person and that is why he succeeded as captain,” Jiyas added.

Jiyas was one of the two Indian spinners – leg-spinner Pardeep Sahu of Haryana being the other – who were part of the Australian support staff as net bowlers. Former India and Tamil Nadu allrounder Sridharan Sriram, who was a spin consultant with the Australian team, handpicked Jiyas to help the Australians counter the spin threat of Kuldeep Yadav during the 2017 ODI series in India.

Though he worked with the Australian team for only two days in that tour, he re-joined them in 2018 ahead of the Test series against Pakistan in the UAE, this time with a contract.

“Finchy loved the way I bowled in the nets. He played a major role in me getting my contract extended. We used to have match simulations. After bowling, I used to discuss with the batters the ways to deal with my kind of bowling and they used to welcome it,” Jiyas said.

Jiyas was also part of the support staff of the Australian team which thrashed Pakistan 5-0 in the 2019 ODI series. The semi-final loss in the 2019 ODI World Cup was devastating for Finch and Australia, he said.

The wrist-spinner, who was in the Delhi Daredevils camp in the 2015 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), said frequent exposure to India helped Finch learn a few Hindi words too. “Whenever he saw me, he would first ask, ‘Hi bhai, kaise ho? Theek? (How are you? all well?).”

Finch retired from all forms of international cricket after leading Australia in a record 76 games as captain of the T20I squad. Finch guided Australia to their first T20 World Cup in 2021 and was captain again last year in their unsuccessful title defence on home soil. The 36-year-old top-order batter also won a World Cup title with Australia in the 50-over format at home in 2015 and played five Test matches across an international career spanning 12 years.

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