Forget Khawaja, it’s Faulkner who’s been shafted

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    Usman Khawaja really has not been that hard done by, regardless of the outcry from hordes of fans. It’s James Faulkner who’s been truly stiffed, first left out of the Champions Trophy and then denied a Cricket Australia contract.

    Ever since Khawaja was dropped from the Test line-up in India as part of a horses-for-courses selection strategy there has been a nonstop stream of outrage from fans online. That Test call was tough, no doubt, but many of those same fans also have been angered by his non-selection for the Champions Trophy, despite Khawaja’s poor ODI record.

    While I would have picked Khawaja for the tournament, that is only because of the lack of experienced alternatives, not because he had truly earned his spot.

    Khawaja at least managed to keep his Cricket Australia central contract when the latest list was announced yesterday. Faulkner, meanwhile, was dealt an incredibly harsh blow, losing his contract despite being a key member of the ODI and Twenty20 line-ups for the past four years.

    What makes his omission from the contract list so shocking is that some of the players handed contracts have barely ever played for Australia and look unlikely to play central roles in any of the three formats over the next 12 months. I’m referring to Ashton Agar, Hilton Cartwright and Billy Stanlake.

    Billy Stanlake? Are you kidding me? This is a man who has a total of 26 wickets in professional cricket across all three formats, who has figures of 1-110 across his three matches for Australia. Yet Stanlake somehow is considered more worthy of a prized Cricket Australia contract than Faulkner, who has averaged 26 with the ball and 28 with the bat across his 92 matches for Australia.

    Faulkner was man of the match in the 2015 World Cup final and since then has been one of Australia’s best ODI performers, taking 38 wickets from 24 matches at an average of 28. In T20Is, meanwhile, Faulkner has been in Australia’s top five players since he debuted five years ago.

    He was Australia’s best player at last year’s World T20 and has a sensational record of 36 wickets at 19 from his 24 T20Is. Faulkner has been limited to those two white ball formats despite taking 6-98 and making 45 runs in his only Test match and owning comfortably better first-class averages than Mitch Marsh – 25 with the ball and 31 with the bat.

    While Faulkner’s current first-class form does not justify a Test berth, he would certainly be in my Australian XI in ODIs or T20Is. The same cannot be said of Stanlake, Agar or Cartwright, who combined have played just nine matches for Australia.

    Stanlake is not even on the radar for Test selection and should have at least 6-7 pacemen ahead of him in the limited overs pecking order. Agar, meanwhile, has not played for Australia in more than 12 months. Cartwright’s international experience extends to a solitary Test match.

    Cartwright, Stanlake and Agar all have the potential to be fine cricketers for Australia. But they haven’t achieved anything of note for their country yet, while Faulkner has been a valuable contributor for four years now.

    To be dumped from the ODI squad and denied a Cricket Australia contract is a hefty blow for the 26-year-old all-rounder, who is one of the fiercest competitors in Australian cricket, a man who always appears to be giving his all.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco