Two games into the T20 World Cup, Australia look to be slowly sliding sideways along an ice-covered road.
James Faulkner seems to have become a bit less fashionable to name-drop when people are discussing the selection of the Australian Test side.
The man nicknamed ‘The Finisher’ still only has one solitary Test to his name – in the 2013 Ashes – and despite being a regular in the one-day side, is more of a solid contributor than a game changer.
With the excitement lost over the Tasmanian, now no longer a player of future potential, and with the selectors seemingly pigeon-holing him as a one-day specialist, one can be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that Faulkner’s Test ambitions are all but over.
While it makes sense to contend such a theory, a closer look at Faulkner’s Shield record is surprising.
Opening the bowling for Tasmania, he averages 24.24 with the ball – lower than Josh Hazlewood’s first class average – and goes at just 2.93 an over. He’s taken five wickets in an innings five times, and four wickets another seven.
Faulkner’s ability to extract movement off the seam, coupled with his wily left arm action, make him an awkward prospect, particularly in the right conditions. His accuracy means he’s difficult to get away. This is perfect for a third seamer in the Australian line-up, where Faulkner would be playing second-fiddle to Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood, and would be expected to keep an end tight and chime in with the odd wicket.
Further, his bowling is ideally suited to both English – where his seam movement is perfect for the pitches – and Indian conditions – where his accuracy and ability to take pace off the ball would see him go for few runs and pick up wickets, particularly in the lower order.
What sets the 26-year-old apart from other fast bowling contenders, however, is his batting. Faulkner averages 32.67 with the bat in first-class cricket, an elite average for someone who would bat No.8 for Australia. This would take the pressure off Mitchell Starc, boosting his returns with the willow, and allow Australia the flexibility to name another batting allrounder to balance out their team and take the workload off the bowlers.
While he might not be the first name on the selectors’ and fans’ lips, it makes more sense than one might think to select James Faulkner. If he can kick on in the second half of the Sheffield Sheild, he could be a dark horse for next summers Ashes. It wouldn’t be the worst selection gamble.