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Faulkner grows into well-defined role

James Faulkner lines up to smash the ball BCCI

Shane Watson had been ruled out due to a niggle. The stand-in captain, Steven Smith, dazzled for a short while. Mitchell Johnson was at his menacing best, until he went for runs in his last over. The man who tormented Johnson in that one over - 20 runs in the 19th over of the match - and dismissed Glenn Maxwell in his first over was the clear winner of the battle of the world champions at the Maharashtra Cricket Association's stadium on Friday night.

James Faulkner has delivered with the bat and the ball against some of the best teams in the international arena. His Australia team-mates suffered from his onslaught on Friday as he almost single-handedly helped Rajasthan Royals start their IPL 2015 campaign with a comfortable victory against last year's finalists, Kings XI Punjab.

Faulkner appeared to be at his aggressive best. Perhaps because it was the first game he was playing after being adjudged Man of the Match of the World Cup final. Perhaps, it was also the opposition - a team that hadn't really made the best use of his skills.

Even the most hardcore IPL fans tend to forget that before joining Rajasthan Royals in 2013, Faulkner had a stint with Kings XI Punjab and Pune Warriors as a replacement player. He made a solitary appearance for Pune Warriors, bowling two overs against Delhi Daredevils. In 2012, he was roped in by Kings XI but was ignored for most of the season except for two games.

Since 2013, however, Royals have extracted the best out of him. His role with the bat and the ball seems to be well-defined and it has shown in the improving results with every passing season

With an allrounder, the confidence gained from success in one aspect of play lifts his other strength, too. That happened on Friday with Faulkner as he rescued Royals with the bat. Tottering at 75 for 5, the Royals were in danger of being wrapped up for mediocre total, but Faulkner's assault on Johnson and co, pulled them out of the hole.

That gave him an extra zip to his key strength - death- bowling. After managing to see the back of Maxwell early on in the innings, Faulkner came back at the back end to seal the win for his team with the wickets of George Bailey and Johnson.

"When I get some wickets, I don't worry but I will definitely cop some stick from time to time," Faulkner said. "Look, that's the role I have been given, bowling in one-day cricket in Powerplays and in T20 cricket at the back end of the innings.

"The game's funny. There's going to be times when you get hit out of the attack. There's going to be times when things go to plan. One might fold the hands like one did tonight. But that's the game. That's what we play for. It's a roller-coaster ride. Hopefully, more often than not, there's going to be a winning feeling as a team."

Royals would be hoping Faulkner can continue having the same impact over the next six weeks.