Marsh One-Day Cup 2019
Unfinished business: Faulkner at peace with his limitations
Worn down by over a decade of elite cricket, the hero of Australia's 2015 World Cup final win has taken on a simple motivational mantra
22 October 2019, 06:17 PM AEST
The allrounder deservedly dubbed 'The Finisher' who produced some of his most influential performances amid the pressure of cut-throat finals acknowledges he's now nearing the end.
But while injuries have curtailed James Faulkner's ability to withstand the rigours of first-class cricket, and his almost 30-year-old body struggles to bounce back from long days in the 50-over format, he's at peace with the limitations he now lives within.
As a result, the pain he's endured from his battle-worn knees and the frustration he's known when constantly asked if he'll once again don the national colours has dissipated as Faulkner embraces a simpler motivational mantra.
The hero of Australia's 2015 World Cup final win and a star of Tasmania's triumphs in the Sheffield Shield deciders of 2010-11 and 2012-13 now gains satisfaction from the friendships he maintains as part of a playing group and the joy of helping them achieve on-field success.
And for a competitor as fierce as Faulkner – who became renowned as much for his combative character as for his undoubted talent with both bat and ball – that represents a significant shift.
"I just want to enjoy playing the game," Faulkner told cricket.com.au ahead of Tasmania's Marsh One-Day Cup fixture against New South Wales at North Sydney Oval on Wednesday.
"I enjoy walking to the changeroom with all the boys – it takes your mind off the pain that you're going through at certain times.
"At the moment, playing in the one-day comp for Tasmania, I'm just getting fit and healthy and ready for BBL (with the Hobart Hurricanes).
"I obviously bowled so many balls as a younger player in all three competitions, and it's taken its toll.
"I'm probably a bit more content with it now than when I was three or four years ago."
A contributing factor in Faulkner's more measured, perhaps even mellowed outlook on top-level cricket is his first-hand experience as to how quickly the landscape can change.
From his position quite literally atop the world after being named player of the match when Australia lifted the quadrennial ODI crown at the MCG four years ago, Faulkner soon found there was only one direction of travel from such exalted heights.
Having initially surrendered his place in Australia's post-World Cup team due to a disciplinary lapse, Faulkner learned – upon his return – that his previously potent repertoire of cutters and back-of-the-hand slower balls were losing their mystery.
In part, that was due to the physical limitations imposed by the ragged cartilage and grinding bones in both knees, the legacy of carrying an allrounder's double workload since his debut for Tasmania as an 18-year-old in 2008.
But the left-armer was also victim of his success that had elevated him to the national ODI and T20 outfits as well as stints in T20 franchise competitions including the KFC BBL, Indian Premier League and England's domestic T20 competition.
The opportunities afforded by those tournaments was lucrative, but the exposure they brought meant opponents familiarised themselves with his weaponry and clinically disarmed it.
Injury and reduced impact means the high-impact matchwinner has not played an ODI game in more than two years and his most recent T20 international came eight months earlier in February 2017.
Furthermore, the red-ball credentials that carried him to a Test cap against England during the 2013 Ashes series in the UK have not been seen since his previous Marsh Sheffield Shield outing for Tasmania in the 2017-18 summer.
That was the time that he also lost his Cricket Australia playing contract.
And despite eyeing a place in Australia's ODI World Cup squad at the start of the 2018-19 home summer – an ambition that proved short-lived when a calf injury sustained playing for Lancashire in the UK sidelined him from the entire Australian domestic one-day season – Faulkner understands his chances of reprising any of those roles is fleeting at best.
"I've been asked that heaps of times," Faulkner said with a smile, when the topic of a possible return to international cricket was raised.
"I don't even think about it at the moment.
"I just want to enjoy whatever team I'm playing for; enjoy playing for them and trying to win silverware."
It's a similar response when the prospect of adding to his career tally of 63 first-class appearances is floated.
"Never say never, but it's a long way off at the moment," he said in relation to a potential return to Shield cricket.
"I hadn't played any 50-over cricket until the last couple of weeks, and that four games in nine days (at the start of the Marsh Cup) took its toll, which you'd expect.
"It was pushing it a bit, with four (games) in nine days, flying from Perth to Adelaide and then all around the shop.
"But that's what professional sports all about, so I just keep trucking on I suppose."
Although Tasmania currently occupy the bottom rung of the Marsh One-Day Cup ladder with a solitary win, Faulkner's form with the ball has been impressive in light of the demands placed on his body.
Opening the bowling with former Test quick Jackson Bird, Faulkner has claimed seven wickets – bettered only by WA's Andrew Tye (10), Tasmania teammate Riley Meredith and Victoria's Jackson Coleman (eight) – at a leaner economy rate (4.81 runs per over) than any of that trio.
When it was suggested that not only were his figures noteworthy, but his bowling speeds appeared to be edging back towards those he recorded when named Ricky Ponting Medallist as Tasmania's player of the year for three consecutive summers from 2011-13, Faulkner could only laugh.
"Ooh, I don't know about that," he said. "I think they were only just getting down the other end by the end (of the fourth game).
"But, yeah, going okay – taking wickets and the most important thing is I'm enjoying the game.
"While I'm enjoying it, I'll obviously will play for as long as I can and hopefully we can get some wins on the board."