As James Faulkner hustles through his run-up and winds up that arm of his, there is nothing that suggests deception. The action is plain – don’t credit his success in IPL to any freakish art – perhaps a touch too commonplace. Upon pitching, the ball does nothing special either. It darts in or slips away, skids rather than zings.
So what makes the left-armer special? How has he whittled out so many wickets? By default or by design? Perhaps both. But what he has proved in this edition is that the old-fashioned virtues of discipline and persistence transcend formats, and when allied with the avant-garde bag of variations like the slower-ball, the deception only amplifies.
The most recent Ashes recruit will reach England on a buoyant mood, having snared 16 wickets in only seven matches, earning him without any audition the ‘Aussie Success of the IPL’ medallion, more so considering that he cost Rajasthan Royals only $400,000. Pune Warriors’ Aaron Finch might be a distant contender but his stock has slightly regressed recently.
The irony in terms of auctioneering logic here shouldn’t be missed. For the most expensive Australian in the auction – Mumbai Indians swooped Glenn Maxwell for a meagre $1 million – is yet to get a game. Generally, the Australians in the Mumbai camp aren’t a satisfied lot. Like Maxwell, Aiden Blizzard, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Phillip Hughes have been warming the benches. Their under-firing skipper, Ricky Ponting, took only six matches to be replaced, and the most enduring image remains his gravity-defying catch to dismiss Unmukt Chand. The only silver-lining has been Mitchell Johnson, their most successful bowler this season (nine wickets at 23.66 with an economy rate of 7.88).
But unlike Ponting, who seems to have resigned to the flailing prowess of his willow, and Adam Gilchrist, whose best is a distant blur, compatriot and contemporary Mike Hussey is enjoying his post-retirement autumn. Replete with match-winning knocks, his haul of 445 runs in eight matches seems faintly ridiculous, even by his lofty standards.
Hussey’s brother David hasn’t lived up to his finisher reputation, despite getting reasonable starts. So has it been for Rajasthan’s Brad Hodge and Pune’s Steven Smith, whose utility value has tapered off since his 16-ball 39 not out against Chennai Super Kings.
But what would please the Aussie selectors back home would be the form David Warner and Shane Watson – two vital elements in their Ashes regaining-bid – have run into. Their performances in IPL is no guarantee that they would replicate these numbers this summer in England. But it would at least allay the negativity that might have crept into them after the Test series debacle against India.