Steven Finn was just 20 years old when he made his England debut against Bangladesh in 2010, a lanky but prodigious prospect who touched 90mph when he slammed down the ball.
As Jim Holden in the Daily Express observed that summer, everything looked poised for him to have a long and dominant career:
You’d expect to see some menace from a bowler standing 6'8" tall. The truly encouraging aspect is the control and consistency he seems to possess.
It's easily forgotten at the moment, as he flies home from England's miserable Ashes tour because his coach, Ashley Giles, says he has been rendered effectively unpickable. As per quotes taken in the Daily Mail:
We feel this is the best thing for Steven. He’s obviously not been bowling well enough to be selected and we feel the best place for him right now is to be out of that performance environment.
We’re taking part in the most difficult tour, along with India, and Steven’s just not pickable at the moment. So he will go back and work on the technical things he has to sort out.
Steven Finn will return home early from the limited overs series in order to work on technical aspects of his game.— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) January 15, 2014
Finn will be lumped in with Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann as members of the touring party to take an unexpected journey home. It will be convenient to lump them all together depending on what side of the argument you're on, but it will be wrong.
Trott and Swann's exits were shocking ones. They came at a time you would never have guessed, or in circumstances you could simply not have conceived.
The tragedy with Finn is that you saw it coming. While most young English bowlers graft away at county level hoping for their chance to impress, Finn took 46 wickets at under 27 in Test cricket before his 22nd birthday.
When he was dropped for failing to marry a wicket-taking knack with control during the 2010/11 Ashes, it looked like a speed bump on an inevitable journey to success.
But since then things have fallen away. Successive captains, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, have looked as if they don't trust him in crunch situations. He has appeared fitfully for England ever since, and his time spent outside the game has seen him pick up bad habits.
He had to shorten his run-up mid-tour in New Zealand last year, while more infamously, the rules of the game were changed in his honour after he found himself incapable of not removing the bails at the non-striker's end as he bowled.
You saw it coming, but yet it still happened. A 20-year-old with control and pace has evolved into an unpickable, technically-shot 24-year-old. He has spent three months on an Ashes tour, which should have been defining his career, carrying drinks and shedding confidence.
At the time of writing, though, with England in the middle of an ODI series against a steamrollering Australia, Steven Finn is ranked No. 3 in the official list of ODI bowlers.
The number should stick in the throats of England's coaching staff, who with Finn's departure now apparently outnumber the playing squad in Australia.
Steven Finn now on the way home. Latest count: Players 15 Support Staff 16: just for a few ODI's. World's Gone Mad. pic.twitter.com/w6n2GqGaen— Fred Boycott (@FredBoycott) January 15, 2014
They have had four years to work with Finn. Head bowling coach David Saker has been in charge for all but two months of Finn's England career and the regression has taken place under his watch.
But while Finn would be entitled to think ruefully on the last few months as he takes the long flight home from Down Under, it will do him little good to think about what's been and gone.
Coaches may have let Finn down, but that's nothing to take solace in when it comes to resuscitating his international career. Cricket must hope he finds from within what he needs to return to the top, because like Mitchell Johnson's second coming this winter, the results could be spectacular.
Stats taken from Cricinfo
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