Home is where the start is for Faulkner
Allrounder to begin Australian season in Hobart colours for the first time as he looks to reboot his career
21 December 2018, 01:31 PM AEST
The irony of returning to his home Big Bash club when attitudes towards players leaving their states have begun to soften isn't lost on James Faulkner.
After copping grief for being among the brave few to defect from Tasmania when the KFC BBL was launched in 2011, Faulkner will finally pull on the purple colours of the Hobart Hurricanes this summer.
The allrounder’s homecoming after seven seasons at glamour club Melbourne Stars comes at a pivotal time in his career, with a crippling right knee injury that stalled his blossoming international career finally beginning to come good.
"It was probably as a big as a decision to leave the Stars as it was to go in BBL|01," the Tasmanian told cricket.com.au. "They're probably two of the hardest decisions of my career.
"It definitely wasn't the norm to (move) back then, it didn't go down that well.
"It was so foreign, a lot of people were talking behind my back, questioning whether you're in it for four-day and one-day cricket for Tassie.
"It's quite funny. I laugh about it now because when it came to BBL|03 and 04, the players who were giving you a bit of stick were doing the same thing (leaving for other BBL teams). They were at the end of their career and they were trying to shop themselves around as much they could.
"You do have a bit of a chuckle. At the time there was a fair bit heat on me."
When he joined the Stars in their foundation year in 2011, Faulkner's fledgling international career was beginning to take off.
A few years later, he made an encouraging Test debut in the 2013 Ashes before solidifying his moniker of 'The Finisher' with a miracle Gabba heist that has gone down as one of the finest individual batting efforts in Australia's storied ODI history.
The player of the match in their subsequent World Cup final triumph in 2015, Faulkner has since struggled to reach those same heights in the ensuing years, due in no small part to his debilitating knee issues. It culminated last year in the loss of his national contract and his axing for the Champions Trophy.
Again hobbled by injury during the second of half of last summer, the 28-year-old has since vowed to take it slower.
Tasmania gave their blessing for him to have a white-ball only focus for the first half of this season after a successful T20 stint with Lancashire over the winter and he's tuned up for the BBL by playing in the T10 league in the UAE.
"I didn't want to be in the same position as I have in the last few years where I've been in a fair bit of pain leading into the BBL and the (rest of the) summer," he explained.
"In any sort of cricket, there's going to be ups and downs – you're going to feel like an absolute superstar after one game and feel like the worst player in the world (after another).
"But injures are probably harder to take mentally than physically at times, especially when you know you can perform better than you are."
With career BBL averages of 28 with the bat and 24 with the ball, Faulkner looms as an important inclusion for BBL|07’s runners-up.
One of the few players remaining from Tasmania's glory years between 2008 and 2012 where they won two Shield titles and two one-day cups, Faulkner has been energised by new coach Adam Griffith.
The former Tigers paceman led his side to the JLT Sheffield Shield final last year after finishing bottom of the standings the two previous seasons, while Griffith has also now taken the reins from Gary Kirsten at the Hurricanes after their defeat in last season's final.
"Since Griffo has taken over he's done an amazing job with the young group that we have," Faulkner said.
"There's no real egos at all in our changerooms, everyone's on a level playing field. We've got a really good team dynamic.
"Griffo has been fantastic in getting every little thing out of players to help them be successful.
"The next step now is to get over that final hurdle and actually win some silverware."
Faulkner says he'll revaluate with Tasmania's high-performance staff whether four-day cricket is a possibility after the BBL season is over, before returning to Lancashire for a second straight season with their T20 side.
His forthcoming spell in the UK is well-timed; Australia will be kicking off their ODI World Cup title defence there in June.
But after so many setbacks since his 2015 heroics, Faulkner insists cricket’s showpiece event is the furthest thing from his mind.
"I'm not thinking that far ahead at the moment, I'm just enjoying being back playing cricket and not being in as much pain as I have in the past and just being around the group," he said.
"I'm just enjoying the game and focusing on what role I can play for the Hurricanes throughout this BBL.
"The rest - I'm not going there at the moment."