Rajasthan Royals Must Gamble and Change James Faulkner's Role with Bat and Ball

Chris TealeFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2014

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 19:  James Faulkner of Australia celebrates the wicket of Ravi Bopara of England during game three of the One Day International Series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
Mark Nolan/Getty Images

As the Rajasthan Royals chased 180 to beat Kings XI Punjab in their latest Indian Premier League (IPL) match, Australian James Faulkner mysteriously did not come in until No. 8.

The talented 24-year-old found himself below Stuart Binny and Rahul Tewatia, and by the time he entered the game was powerless to prevent defeat for the Royals by 16 runs.

After he eventually came to the crease at the end of the 16th over, Faulkner showed the Royals exactly what they had been missing as he hit 35 from 13 balls with one four and four superb sixes.

Just imagine if he had come in earlier.

Despite relatively limited opportunities in the lower order, Faulkner has made a number of telling contributions with the bat in scoring 158 runs at an average of 52.66.

Most tellingly, his strike rate of 192.68 is the best among all Royals batsmen and behind only Abu Nechim, Dwayne Bravo and countryman Glenn Maxwell in the entire tournament.

Looking at his statistics, were Faulkner to come in earlier and deliver the kind of innings he has been playing, Rajasthan could expect to have much more success with the bat than they have been having.

When you consider the inconsistent Shane Watson at No. 4, an undoubtedly class batsman who has struggled a little in 2014, moving the in-form Faulkner up the order makes a great deal of sense.

The all-rounder is in scintillating form and has been relatively consistent over the course of this year’s tournament, so the increased opportunity an elevation in the batting order would present may well be enormously beneficial both for the team and the individual.

He may be young and still developing with the bat, but if he has time in the innings available to him, he is likely to make many more telling contributions.

Just ask Royal Challengers Bangalore, who were recently on the receiving end of an unbeaten 41 from Faulkner after he came to the crease in the 14th over and proceeded to blitz their bowling.

Not only does Faulkner have plenty to offer with the bat, he may also benefit from different opportunities with the ball at a different time in the opposition’s innings.

Usually, Faulkner is brought on to bowl relatively early in proceedings while the ball is still pretty new and with both opposition batsmen looking dangerous.

His figures have suffered as a result, especially his economy rate for the tournament—9.27 runs per over—which is one of Rajasthan’s worst.

However, were he to be given the responsibility of the new ball, with some overs reserved for the latter stages of the innings, perhaps he would benefit.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 29:  James Faulkner of the Stars celebrates the wicket of Stephen O'Keefe of the Sixers during the Big Bash League match between the Sydney Sixers and the Melbourne Stars at the SCG on December 29, 2013 in Sydney, Australia.
Matt Blyth/Getty Images

If he was to bowl the first or second over of the innings, he would be able to establish a far greater rhythm as the batsmen look to settle in at the crease before opening their shoulders.

In the past, he has shown himself to be a very canny operator in Twenty20 cricket, and his overall economy rate of 7.50 in T20 shows that he is capable of drying up the runs.

With the new ball and all the responsibility that entails, perhaps Faulkner would be even more effective and able to showcase his skills that much more.

Rajasthan would surely benefit from giving him a greater role with bat and ball too, especially as they look nervously over their shoulder from the final playoff spot.