“I mean that in a kind way,” said a chuckling Tim Coyle, former Tasmania coach who’s seen Test debutant James Faulkner grow up and develop into the respectful, talented young man that will walk onto The Oval as the nation’s 435th Test cricketer.
Coyle has coached Faulkner for the entirety of his first-class career, handing him his debut in 2008 to watching him star for Tasmania in the 2012-13 Bupa Sheffield Shield final.
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Faulkner’s shock promotion into the starting XI for the final Ashes Test comes as no surprise to Coyle.
“I thought he’d play significant cricket for Australia.
“As a young player he displayed all the right attributes I think of an Australian cricketer, and as he’s improved his skill set over the past few years.
“Add to that a great competitive spirit and he’s just what the Australian team needs and I think he’ll do really well.”
It was the final two games in last year’s Shield season that properly announced Faulkner as a red-ball cricketer.
Tasmania needed to beat Victoria at home in the last round to qualify for the final, and with a day to play the Tigers required 10 wickets after rain interrupted day three.
Legend has it Faulkner crashes into the dressing room on the morning of day four, points out captain George Bailey sitting in the corner and declares, “I’m on today.”
Coach Coyle remembers it well.
“The game had lost some time and it came down to the last day.
“We really had to put our hand up with the ball and take 10 wickets and we didn’t have a lot of overs to do it.
“But Jim led from the front and put on a display showing how competitive he is but also how skilled he is under a lot of pressure and there was a lot of pressure in that game.”
Faulkner then backed up his 5-56 in the second innings with a man of the match performance in the final.
There’s no question where his all-round bias falls, but it was his batting in the final that earned him his accolades.
A defiant 89, his highest first-class score, dragged Tasmania, along with Tim Paine from 5-15 and then 6-56 to 7-217 when partner Paine departed.
That innings was the start of his maturation with the bat, an area where Coyle has seen him improve since his time in the UK.
“That was always his challenge.
“He’s described as a bowling all-rounder at the moment and rightly so, but I think James has the talent to be a true all-rounder.
“I think that’s his next challenge and I hope this Test match he gets an opportunity with the bat to show us all what he can do.”
Faulkner’s first Test wicket looks to be a dry, flat Oval deck that will take spin as the match wears on, but that won’t limit his impact according to his former mentor.
Blundstone Arena is regarded a seamer’s paradise in recent times, which is where Faulkner’s versatility across varying surfaces gives him an advantage.
“One of thing he’s done for Tasmania in my time was he was able to bowl in all conditions, with new or old ball, and be successful.
“He has a really good game plan for all those situations.”
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“I think the captain can throw him the ball with confidence no matter what stage of the game is.
“Last year in particular we saw him bowl well on dryer, slower wickets and he affected a game plan that was very good and bowled us to victory in a number of games.”
Coyle has moved on from Tasmania where he enjoyed an incredible run of finals and silverware, now with the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars on their own Ashes campaign.
The old coach does have one last message for his former pupil and that’s to keep things simple when he pulls that Baggy Green on for the first time.
“It’s still a contest between bat and ball and ball and bat.
“If he’s playing a part in that it’ll bring something to the Australian dressing room and the Australian on-field performance.”