Sport

Cricket allrounder James Faulkner on closing out the big games. By Richard Cooke.
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The finisher: James Faulkner, 24, cricketer

You’ve always got a plan. I’ve had good people looking after me, senior players. I’ve got analysts here with the Australian cricket team, I’ve got analysts over in the IPL. I’ve played against a lot of the subcontinent players over there. I don’t know if I’ll knock over the best batters all the time, but I’m definitely trying. 

World-class players can take opportunities away from you very quickly. They might be streaky for a couple of balls and then all of a sudden play you into the stand. You definitely have back-up plans and different options to go to. You need a plan B. And often a plan C.

I’ve tried to put myself under the pump. Especially in the past three or four years. That’s because earlier in my career, I’ve been in positions when I haven’t quite got it done. Purely because my skill set wasn’t up to it, because I didn’t practise as much as I wanted to. 

My dad and I don’t talk about cricket much. He’s a former cricketer, but ours is more a mate sort of friendship, a dad friendship. It’s good to just be able to catch up and have dinner and not think about cricket. We can talk other sports, like football. 

I’m sure there are going to be little lulls. It’s part of the game that things sometimes aren’t going to go to plan.

We’ve got a very good bowling attack at the moment. There’s no better opportunity than to face them in the nets. To challenge yourself, and set little targets and little competitions that emulate what the game scenario might be. You’re waiting for those big crowds, and big expectations. 

Nerveless? That’s just a perception. A lot of players might look cool and calm, but they’re really nervous. And you’ve always got to expect the unexpected.

You do get used to pressure. Even if it’s just by tiny amounts, you get more comfortable in those situations.

It’s a hell of a lot of fun. Being in to bowl, being involved in team success, that’s what I’m about. That’s whether I’m out there in the end hitting the winning runs, or whether I’m in the dressing room. If the cricket team’s winning, I’m pretty happy. It gives everyone a great buzz when you are winning as a team, and lately we’ve been doing just that.

I’ve got little routines I go through. To try to, I suppose, keep me switched on and get myself in the game. It could be something as simple as a couple of deep breaths, just to try to relax yourself and get myself comfortable. Different players deal with it differently.

What are the routines? I’m definitely not going to go into the different ones.

I try not to get too far ahead. How many balls are left, or how many runs you need. To break it down into little blocks, depending on who you’re batting with. And I suppose you use the momentum of the other player who’s either batting at the other end or bowling from the other end. They might be having a good day, so you try to support them.

I’m really tight with the other all-rounders in the squad. As much as the papers write what they write, at the end of the day we’re mates. We catch up for coffee when each of us has been dropped, or we’re not picked. 

There’s never any malice there, or jealousy. Which I suppose is a great way to be.  

At the moment, it’s tough to make that final 11. There are a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure. That’s the beauty of it – you know if you’re getting picked for Australia, you’re in good form. That’s what all young kids dream about doing when they’re growing up – being involved in an Australian cricket team.

With selection, hopefully there are more ups than downs. I’m a believer that if you’re training hard and you’re giving yourself every opportunity to get selected, then the cream always rises to the top.

This week’s highlights…

• Cricket: ICC World Cup quarter-final – New Zealand v West Indies

Today, noon AEDT, Wellington Regional Stadium, New Zealand

• Netball: Adelaide Thunderbirds v Melbourne Vixens 

Tomorrow, 12.18pm AEDT, Netball SA Stadium, Adelaide

• Soccer: A-League – Central Coast Mariners v Perth Glory

Tomorrow, 3pm, Central Coast Stadium, Gosford, NSW

• NRL: South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers

Tomorrow, 4pm, ANZ Stadium, Sydney

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 21, 2015 as "The finisher". Subscribe here.

Richard Cooke
is a journalist and writer for television. He is The Saturday Paper's sports editor.

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