June 25, 2013

'No point puffing your chest out and not playing good cricket'

James Faulkner talks about adding swing to his repertoire, and striking a balance between tough talk and tough cricket

In Australia's dire Champions Trophy, James Faulkner stood out like a beacon. Aggressive, courageous but also skilful and thoughtful, he looked the kind of self-reliant and dependable cricketer his nation once produced with far greater regularity.

You came over to England no doubt hoping to consolidate your spot in the ODI team and then push for a place in the Ashes squad. Are you progressing as you'd like?
I don't look at it in terms of keeping my spot. Every time you play for Australia you're playing as a team, and I know personally I'm not looking at how well I go. The ultimate goal is to win games of cricket. I don't look at it as keeping my spot, I just want to do as well as I can and the end result will be keeping your spot.

Something that is very notable about your domestic displays, and a few of your Australian appearances so far, is that you tend to play well in the team's hour of need.
I feel a bit of responsibility, I suppose, when I'm home, and in any game I play in as an allrounder, you know you're going to be in the game and you know there's going to be moments when you have to step up. There's going to be times when things don't go to plan as well. I know I've had a couple of those experiences. One back home was the one-day final in Adelaide [in 2012] when I didn't get the job done there, but it gave me more incentive and more of an urge to perform in other finals after that. I've done that now, so that gives me more confidence.

There was also the BBL semi-final last summer when you bowled a critical no-ball. What do you gain from difficult days like that?
You learn a lot. When you lose those sorts of big games you reflect on what could have happened and what you did wrong and right. The big thing about it now, with the scheduling and how many games there are, is not to try to kick yourself too much. Reflect and move on and not hold it too close to you.

Something that stands out about your development is that you were playing club cricket at a very young age in Launceston, and also playing underage matches against guys a couple years older than you. Did it help you mature a little faster?
When you play older, more experienced people, you've got to adapt and raise your levels. I'm grateful for the opportunity Tassie gave me to play at a young age as well. Looking back at it now I probably wasn't ready for first-class cricket at 18. But even in that game I got injured and it just put everything in perspective - it gave me the desire to play more.

Do those experiences also mean you're more capable of thinking your way through a situation than a lot of players your age?
No matter if you're 19, 20 or 30, everyone's still learning. There's going to be a time when you think you know your own game, but you probably don't, so I know everyone in our team is still learning and I certainly am, being the age I am. But the quicker you can pick things up and pick little aspects apart and learn from other players, the better you'll be.

You've been a very consistent wicket-taker at all levels, even though as a left-armer you don't possess the natural inswinger often considered vital. You appear to use angles on the crease and variations in line very well, however?
A lot of people say that and I've read a lot about that. But every bowler's different, and if everyone bowled a perfect outswinger or inswinger the game would be pretty boring. The same with spin bowlers - they're all different, there's doosras now in the game. I know I'm working on something at the moment and we'll see what happens, whether I start swinging or seaming it more.

Ultimately it will be up to the selectors whether or not you play and the captain where you bat, but do you have any preference or concept of where you'd fit into the Test side?
I'm not going to think about where I'm going to bat or bowl. The games I've played so far in domestic cricket, I've batted everywhere, so it's just a matter of when you get told where you're batting you get your head around what your job is and do it the best you can. You don't think about fifties or hundreds or five-fors or anything like that, just go out there and play your natural game and back your preparation.

Tasmania and culture get bandied around a lot. How much have you benefited from playing in a team that has set standards in that area?
I know back home the culture is very strong, and I know other states feel that way with our team. But it's hard to comment when you don't know what other cultures are like in domestic cricket. Ours is very strong and I'm happy playing my cricket there. Hopefully I spend a bit more time with this group, but I know whenever I go back there it's going to be good fun.

"If everyone bowled a perfect outswinger or inswinger the game would be pretty boring"

That fun and sense of unity develop over time a team spends together. There is a bit of a need for Australia to develop that sort of continuity and culture with a younger team.
Tasmania's been so successful, players are helping each other's game, everyone's so close as well. Back home it's a phone call and our whole team can get together in 15-20 minutes because it's Hobart and everything's so close together. But I suppose in Sydney, Perth anywhere else it could be more difficult. It is easier to assemble and catch up with each other. What I've seen so far in this team is that we get along, and everyone's catching up with different people for dinner and talking cricket.

Who have you looked up to as an allrounder, and who have been some of your mentors in the game?
I don't really look up to anyone in particular; I take aspects from different people's games. I've been lucky to be involved in a few different teams now when it comes to T20, state cricket, and now Australia. So I've asked different people what they think about different stages of the game and different skills with bat or ball. I sift through all that and pick out the bits that I think can develop my own game and develop myself as a person, not just cricket-related. Some of the people like that would be my captain back home, George Bailey; Shane Watson was a big help over in India in the IPL; Ricky Ponting when he's been around Tasmania. People like that have been really supportive. George and Dan Marsh were important for backing me at a young age and giving me support, so it's been good - I've been well looked after.

You are known for your combativeness on the field, but can you also draw a distinction between puffing your chest out and playing tough cricket - standing up and delivering in tight or difficult situations?
I suppose you can say it is easy to puff your chest out on the ground. I'd say the good players can do both. They can puff their chest out and play good cricket. There's no point puffing your chest out and not playing good cricket, because you're going to be looked at as a bit of a dill. I like to play my cricket hard but fair, I try not to step over the line. But you've got to play with that competitive nature, and that's what gives me that edge to want to do well, to get batsmen out or to score runs. I'll continue to play that way but make sure I don't cross the line.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here