James Faulkner couldn’t help but fear his World Cup dream was up in smoke a month ago.
Wincing with pain after straining his side while bowling against England on February 1, Faulkner was a worried man as he trudged off the WACA Ground.
But Australia’s X-factor is now ready for action again, and he’s keen to unleash his magic against Afghanistan in Perth on Wednesday.
Faulkner resumed batting duties several weeks ago, and he put in a strong bowling display at training on Monday to prove he’s ready for a recall.
But finding a spot for him won’t be an easy task for Australia’s selectors.
One possible scenario is to replace injured paceman Pat Cummins (side strain) with Faulkner.
Although scans have cleared Cummins of any serious damage, he’s almost certain to miss the clash with Afghanistan.
But if selectors opt to recall Josh Hazlewood following Australia’s one-wicket loss to New Zealand last Saturday, then either Shane Watson or Mitch Marsh could be forced to make way for Faulkner.
Faulkner, whose exploits with both bat and ball have made him one of Australia’s most important players, suffered a knee injury in the lead-up to last year’s T20 World Cup.
The Tasmanian only ended up playing one match during that tournament, but he’s hoping to make a bigger impact at the 50-over showpiece event.
“I’d be lying to say I wasn’t frustrated at the start,” Faulkner said of his recent side strain.
“Any time you get injured it’s a shocking feeling.
“And to do it at the time it happened, it was obviously quite hard to take at the start.
“But it has given me some time to freshen up and get my body feeling good again.
“Hopefully it holds me in good shape come the end of this tournament.”
Faulkner doesn’t think his month on the sidelines will leave him rusty.
“I was batting five or six days after the injury. And although they told me to ease back on it in the first two weeks, I was pretty much going 100 per cent,” he said.
“I think I was lucky being a left-arm bowler and a right-arm batsman – it wasn’t the same side when I was batting.”
Faulkner is unsure how many overs he’ll be required to bowl against Afghanistan.
But it won’t be many if Afghanistan’s batting line-up collapses against the might of Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson and co.
Faulkner said Australia had already put their tight loss to NZ – and Glenn Maxwell’s choking backfire – behind them.
Maxwell was caught on camera displaying a choking gesture to the Eden Park crowd last Saturday after NZ had slumped to 9-146.
But the Kiwi fans had the last laugh soon after when Kane Williamson smashed the match-winning six.
“I saw it from the sidelines,” Faulkner said.
“After the game everyone put that aside and we knocked that on the head.”
Australia sit fourth in Pool A, but they’ll finish second if they can notch wins over Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Scotland.