By R Kaushik in Mirpur
“If you can do something to upset somebody and their team, it goes a long way towards doing well,” says Australia all-rounder, who is recovering from surgery
In international sport, in any international sport, no one says these things anymore. No one apart from James Faulkner, it would seem.
The Australia all-rounder, recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery at the end of the home One-Day International series against England earlier in the Australian summer, was speaking in the lead up to his team’s ICC World Twenty20 2014 Super 10 match against West Indies at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium on Friday (March 28).
Last year, Faulkner was fined 10% of his match fee for giving Chris Gayle a colourful send-off after dismissing him in an ODI. “I haven’t seen him… I’ll say hello, though,” said Faulkner when asked if he had interacted with Gayle since the teams arrived in Bangladesh. “I’m always polite. But I won’t be saying ‘hello’ if I’m playing Friday.”
Australia, beaten by 16 runs in its first game against Pakistan on Tuesday, must win on Friday to stay alive in the competition, a prospect Faulkner admitted he relished. “Anytime you play for your country, it’s do or die. You never know when your last game is going to be. I suppose this one more so, it’s a world cup (World T20) and we have to win all three now (to progress). I think with the team we’ve got and the experience we’ve got, there’s no reason we can’t do that. We've played some really good cricket the last 12 to 18 months and we’re in good shape. You’re going to lose games from time to time, it’s a fickle game. But we can’t lose any more – it’s pretty simple.”
Faulkner has respect for West Indies, the defending champions, and said he and his teammates were chuffed at the prospect of knocking it out of the running. “They won the last (World T20), so they’ve got a lot experience. They’ve got some power hitters. It’s going to be a good contest but I’m really looking forward to it, whether I’m playing or not,” he noted. “And I know all the boys are really excited about getting out on the ground again.
“There’s a few players I would like to knock over and more importantly, I’d like to beat them. I’m looking forward to it.”
Should the team physio and the think tank believe Faulkner is ready for action, he should be a shoo-in to figure in the playing XI. He did acknowledge that he was close to playing the first game against Pakistan, which would suggest an imminent return to the XI. “If it was do-or-die, I would have thought I would have played,” he said of the first game. “But they are in no position to push me, I think a lot of it has got to do with my age and making sure long term, it is a good outcome for myself and also for the team. If it's the next game that I come back, or whether it's later on in the tournament, whenever I come back, I am looking forward to it.
“It (the knee) is never going to feel like it was in all seriousness, any time you go under, but it's pretty close to where it was. I've got a lot of confidence at the moment and I'm pretty much doing everything at training. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and not having to worry about it, I can just go out and train.”
Reflecting on the surgery in Melbourne in late January, Faulkner said, “Pretty much after the last ODI, I went under the knife two days after that. The first week or so was pretty slow. I was on crutches for a few days and then after that, rehab sort of started slowly. I spent a couple of weeks at home in Tasmania doing some activities that I was allowed to do. Cricket Australia flew me up to Brisbane for two stints for four or five days each time and I did a fair bit of work there, especially in the back end of my rehab, before I came over here.
“It's all sort of happened pretty quickly, I have been happy with how it has progressed. Any time you get injured, you have doubts in your head and you worry about how long it is going to take and whether it is going to affect your long-term career. But I've been lucky I have been well looked after, especially David Beakley (the physiotherapist at Cricket Australia) has been unbelievable. I think there hasn't been a day in my rehab that he hasn't contacted me to ask how I’m going. That's a good thing and it’s a good position to be in. Once I started bowling, I was icing it probably five or six or seven times a day. I thought anything I could do to get myself back for the world cup, that's what you want to play as a young kid, and hopefully I am in a position where I can be a part of this one at some stage.”
Before the knee surgery, Faulkner made a fabulous 69 while batting at No. 9, helping Australia secure an unlike victory at the Gabba in its chase of 300 against England. “It was obviously a good moment,” Faulkner, 23, said. “Anytime you chase down 300, it’s a special moment. I suppose with the Australian public they haven’t seen too much of me but having said that, the series’ before that, I think I’ve done pretty well. It was a special night but that’s gone. Hopefully, there’s a few more special nights to come.”
Two of those special nights in the previous series had come in India, when he smashed Ishant Sharma around to seal a dramatic victory in Mohali, then a few days later, made the fastest ODI hundred by an Australian, in 57 balls, in a losing cause in Bangalore. Even so, Faulkner will perhaps forever remain a bowling all-rounder, his left-arm pace and its multiple variations always considered the stronger suit.
“Any time you start out talking to other players and experienced players, you get pigeonholed in certain positions and at the moment, I think my one-day batting has really come along,” he said. “I am batting at No. 7 or No. 8 at the moment and in all seriousness, I want to be batting up the order at some stage in my career in one-day cricket and likely Test cricket as well. Whenever I am given an opportunity, no matter where it is, if it is in the top six or at seven or wherever it is, I want to take the opportunity with both hands. It is a matter of working hard but at the end of the day, I don't get a say in where I bat. It is a matter of scoring runs domestically and when I play for Australia, scoring runs as well.”