'Love for the game just burns inside you'

From growing up in a sporting family to cracking the code to a finisher's game, James Faulkner explains his journey in international cricket so far

James Faulkner's career has seen an incredible rise over the last two years, where he has established himself as a nerveless finisher and a left-arm seamer of considerable cunning. Since making his ODI debut in 2013, he has turned out for Australia in 44 games, scoring at an average of 42.84, besides picking up 60 wickets. Currently in India playing for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, Faulkner answered ESPNcricinfo's queries about his rapid progress, sledging and putting cricket in perspective.
Looking back at how your career has shaped in the last two or three years, is there a sense of disbelief?
I don't know about disbelief. I suppose time has really flown over the last two years [playing] in so many different tournaments, whether it's the IPL or the Big Bash, ODI cricket, Champions Trophy couple of years ago. The list goes on and you just lose track of how much cricket is really being played.
I feel very lucky to be involved in a lot of these tournaments and be able to contribute. So I am very happy to be involved whether it's with Australia or Rajasthan [Royals], and now obviously county cricket [with Lancashire] where I am going to. I love playing the game and try to give 100 percent no matter who I am playing for.
What are the changes you see in yourself both as a cricketer and as a person over the last few years?
I have probably been a bit more patient, especially when it comes to my batting. I was initially coming out at the end with 10-12 balls left and you have to really try and hit the ball over the fence. So I give myself a chance. There is no point in me going and hitting one straight up and putting more pressure on the next players.
Probably, [I] know how to play my role better [now]. I know there's going to be times when things aren't going great for you, and there's going to be times when you look like a superstar. That's just the nature of the game. The way I sort of see it is if you stay relaxed and back your preparations, back your game, more times than not you are going to come on top. That's probably the biggest thing I have learnt: to be patient and to not worry about what other people are saying, because at the end of the day they are not the ones having to deal with your role.
Almost every cricketer talks about living in the present. How do you manage to do that? Do you meditate or try other relaxation exercises?
I don't meditate or do anything like that. For me it's about switching off and forgetting about what happened. If you take it personally if you don't bowl the ball you wanted or if you get out playing a bad shot, [it doesn't help]. [I] definitely learn from it and assess it straightaway but don't keep thinking about it. It's only going to affect your game and there are different times when things haven't gone to plan and people keep bringing them up. But that's for them to harp on. For me it's about trying to stay in the present and worry about the next game.
What are the specific areas you work on as a finisher?
I just give myself some time and a chance to face 15-16 balls, and I can get my first, second boundary. Like any other batsman, it's just about being patient, giving myself a chance, still trying to hit the bad ball but that's pretty much it.
With so many Australians in the Rajasthan Royals set up, have you guys attempted to replicate the 'Australian way' of playing the game?
I don't know if we try and replicate it. I think naturally that's just how we [Royals] play whether you are from Australia, South Africa. Every single player plays differently and they have grown up playing cricket differently. But I can tell you one thing: everyone is still playing the game exactly the same way. They are still very competitive and try and do well for the team.
How big was the influence of your father, Peter - a former first-class cricketer himself - in your becoming a cricketer? Was there pressure on you to make it big?
Naturally when your parents play sport, whether it's cricket, football, soccer, tennis, whatever it is, you grow up around balls and being active, so definitely [it] had an influence on my sporting career.
I don't know if he was trying to put any pressure, but I definitely didn't feel any pressure when it came to playing cricket. [It] was cricket and football probably for me but at the end of the day I love cricket so much, it ended up just working out.
With your fame and riches how do you ensure your mates don't treat you differently now?
Probably that's the hardest thing when it comes to being an elite sportsman or a professional sportsman. You spend so much time away from home it's hard to keep those relationships going with your friends. So I try and speak to my family as often as I can, my mom, my dad, probably don't speak to my sisters as much as what I should do.
Look, your friends are your friends and your family is your family. No matter what happens they will always be there to support you. I am lucky and very fortunate that all my friends treat me the same. They still try and stir me up. That's good. Definitely switches you off away from cricket, and I enjoy the time when I get it.
With so much cricket being played, are there times when you fall out of love with the game?
The love for the game just burns inside you. No doubt every player goes through patches when they are probably not enjoying it as much as what they could. Purely because of the weather, the travel. Probably the travel is the hardest thing, being away from home, out of your own bed, not the same sort of cafes and environment to be around. That's one of the big challenges of being a sportsman. Yes, definitely something you have to monitor.
What are your things you pursue in life with as much interest or more as cricket?
(thinks for a few seconds) That's a very good question. I don't read books. I am not a big reader. I follow the AFL, the football in Australia, I still follow the major golf tournaments, but yeah AFL is the pick for me.
Has the Phillip Hughes tragedy changed the way you look at the risks involved in cricket? Has it changed the way your family and friends look at it?
You have to ask family and friends if I look at it any differently. The way I see the game, definitely the incident put a lot [of things] in perspective. We do get caught up, every single player gets caught up and emotional about whether they have done well or whether they haven't.
[But] it's purely a game. There's more things probably to life. I have sort of found out the journey after the incident. So, probably enjoy your time with your mates because it's a unique job that we've got. We are not in an office. We get to play something through our lives. That's the thing that's hit home the most, I reckon.
Are you big on cricketing history?
I know most of the cricketing events but I don't go back and read that much on cricket. I think purely because your whole life is around cricket when it comes to training, playing and travelling. I just like to get away. But definitely if you ask me something, there would be a fair chance I know it.
Australians seem to have glorified sledging over the years. What's your stand on the matter?
I get asked this question all the time. Like I have said all along, I don't think anyone goes out on the ground to personally sledge someone or attack someone. Just the way the game is played, the competitive nature it's played [with] around the world, it happens and there's going to be times when you are going to step over the line, but no one goes out intentionally to step over the line. Everyone's trying to play it in good spirit and I think getting sledged is a good thing. That means you are obviously performing well and people are trying to get under your skin.
Who is your go-to man as far as cricketing advice is concerned?
Depends what it is. For me, it's more about talking, communicating with other members [of the team] when you are away. I think I learn the most when you are just sitting down having coffee or having lunch with other players. When they are doing well and when they aren't doing well, I think talking about it is probably the best way to go about it.
I have got numerous players that I talk to about the game whether it's here in Rajasthan with Steven Smith and Watto [Shane Watson], I spend a lot of time with him as well or at Australia, [where] it's pretty much with anyone who is around. We love talking about it and that's how you learn about your own game, learn about the team.
What were the celebrations like on the night you won the World Cup? What did Michael Clarke have to say to you guys?
Everyone was obviously so excited about what had occurred. You dream about winning the World Cup. I think just like any other country when they win a World Cup the celebrations were a lot of fun and it was a great time to share with everyone involved whether you are a player or support staff. Everyone contributed not only this year but the four years leading up to it. It was a great time.
How do you see your career evolve from here?
I just want to play as many games for my country as I can. Hopefully, I have got a fair bit of cricket left. I have just turned 25, so hopefully I have got some years to come. Just try to win as many tournaments as we can as a team.

Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo