Faulkner ready to breathe fire, Finch ruled out

The bowling all-rounder will return to action, after six months, in the warm-up match against Board President's XI on Tuesday; the explosive opener is down with a calf injury.

James Faulkner in action at the M.A Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, in Chennai on Monday.   -  R. RAGU

 

On a day of blistering heat — the mercury touched the 33-degree mark – Australia began its training session with basic fielding drills, before moving to the nets for a 90-minute batting session, ahead of the warm-up match against the Board President's XI here on Tuesday.

Opener David Warner, coming at the back of two consecutive Test hundreds in the recently concluded Test series in Bangladesh, looked in fine touch as he connected bat to ball effortlessly.

Skipper Steve Smith flexed his muscles against spin, while right-hand batsman Aaron Finch was seen having a word with Australia’s spin consultant, Sridharan Sriram. He has been ruled out of the practice match as he is nursing a calf injury. Wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade bore the brunt of the heat, retiring into the tent after a brief session.

Read: Umesh, Shami back for Australia ODI series

James Faulkner, who is making a comeback, appeared to be in fine nick at the nets too. When asked how he dealt with his Champions Trophy snub, the bowling all-rounder said, “Anytime you’re dropped, it’s tough. I had four months away from the game, so it was bit of a pre-season which has been nice, a bit of time on my bed, get strong and fit again.

“To be honest, I’ve been battling with my knee for the last eight months, so it was good to be in Tasmania with my teammates there and hit the gym; it’s as good as it has been at the moment. I’m pretty happy.”

But was he told why he was dropped?

“I didn’t get too much feedback to be honest. It was about my pace, they said my pace had dropped down a bit, and it was about bowling a lot of variations. I didn’t have too much (feedback) to be honest, I just reflected on it myself and I wanted to get back in, so I worked as hard as I could.”

The chronic knee problem necessitated a change in his training regime. “I spent a lot of time on the bike; I haven’t spent any time running, other than fielding and net sessions when I’m bowling. That’s probably the big change for me. Have been doing different exercises in the gym when it comes to strength, there are exercises I can’t do but a lot that I still can.

“It’s about being disciplined with them and training hard. And also reflecting on aspects you need to work on as a player in order to get better.”

READ: ODIs will be played in good spirit, assures Steve Smith

Faulkner had a significant hand in Australia’s World-Cup win in 2015, and former bowling coach Craig McDermott reckons the all-rounder brings the X-factor to the side. And having played quite a lot of cricket in the Indian Premier League, he is someone the team could turn to in terms of inputs. However, the 27-year-old feels his strength is, “(Bowling) variations and obviously at the death with bat and ball. I don’t know about X-factor, I think there are a lot of players with that in both lineups. I just want to do as well as I can and play my role in conditions which are different than in Australia. We’ve a team meeting tonight, I’m sure we’ll speak about the opposition and the conditions together.”

READ: Board President's skipper Gurkeerat looking forward to the challenge

Faulkner is focused on “acclimatising to the tough conditions” before the practice match. “We’ve had two training sessions. I’m looking forward to getting out there in the heat, playing well, bowling variations and getting through the game with a solid performance.”

“All the boys love playing out here. The Indian fans are so passionate. It’s always been a good rivalry,” he added.

Asked if any of the players were getting rested given the wear and tear of international fixtures, Faulkner said, “I’m not too sure if anyone’s getting rested. Two of our quicks, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, are not in the tour. But it’s good I think, any team, when it changes formats has different faces coming in — it freshens up the group.”