“Harris is here to stay and the Indians are certain to see a lot more of him in this series”
A dogged Australian opener, with a penchant for tough cricket and an active shot-maker square of the wicket. Surely, the first name that runs by you is Justin Langer, the Australian head coach at the moment. Yet, we are talking about the newbie in Australia’s Test side, the Victoria opener Marcus Harris who was anything but “mediocre with flashes of brilliance”, as Langer had once described him, at the Optus Stadium in Perth on day one.
When Ishant Sharma had Harris chasing outside his off-stump early on, we cringed. Short in stature, Harris appeared very similar to David Warner in his mannerisms at the crease and the wild slash on a green surface seemed very much more Warner-ish than himself. Yet, that was among the rare poor shots he played the entire day.
With the pitch expected to swing, seam and bounce, Harris was assured in footwork, transferred his weight perfectly and found his rhythm much quicker than the Indian pace bowlers who were erratic in the morning session. If everyone from Shane Warne to Andrew McDonald the Victorian coach predicted Aaron Finch to fire and go all guns blazing if the pitch stayed true, it was Harris who was the aggressor-in-chief.
The southpaw creamed Ishant for three boundaries in the seventh over, one a tickle down the leg side and two either side of Ishant down the ground in some exceptional driving. The Indians were full, nearly two times more than at Adelaide as they went in search of swing but Harris was quick to translate anything loose into runs.
When Umesh Yadav came on, he seemed undecided in his length against Harris who stayed low and cut but also ferociously drove the same ball square of the wicket. Before the Test, Harris had joked that his name could well be “Marcus David Langer Rogers”. At Perth, he was that and more, taking the best out of each of the other three and milking the deadly Indian bowling attack.
At Adelaide on debut, Harris had shown an immaculate judgement against the seamers but appeared a tad undecided against Ashwin. With India going all-pace at Perth and the surface not living up to its ‘dead green’ reputation, Harris was quite a handful. That he had immediately appeared to be an experienced Test cricketer on debut aside, Harris took on the task of transferring pressure back onto the Indians with a perfect concoction of attack and defence.
He is aware that there is a tendency to get carried away when set and firing and at Adelaide when it happened twice, he was determined not to let that recur. “I know if you start to feel too confident you can get carried away a little bit and lose your way,” Harris said. “But you always doubt yourself as a person, you’re not sure if you’re going to fit in Test cricket or if you’re going to be too far out of your depth. So I didn’t feel out of my depth at all, but I realised pretty quickly they don’t bowl any crap and they don’t miss any chances that you give them, so you’ve got to be switched on from ball one.”
This Indian fast bowling unit doesn’t bowl much crap, but when they did at Perth, the Victoria opener was merciless. India’s futile search for a wicket continued even after the lunch break as the scoring rate of the openers picked up. Australia had registered just one half-century stand at Adelaide – one reason behind their loss – but at Perth, by lunch they had lost zero wickets and the openers had put on 66.
In 7.3 overs post lunch, Australia’s openers raced to 100 with Finch scoring just 10 runs in the time frame. It was Harris all the way, driving, cutting and piercing the gaps with utmost ease.
“He’s become a really consistent opening batsman with flashes of brilliance. And that’s what really good players do and that’s why he’s been selected to play for Australia because he’s transformed himself from a young bloke who got really good 20s and some brilliant hundreds into a lot more consistent performances. He’s had two very good seasons. That’s why he’s been selected,” Langer had said prior to Adelaide in a talk with the press, squashing any concerns of bad blood between him and Harris.
If anything, the Langer mantra seemed to have rubbed off on Harris. He was solid, composed, showed more than “flashes of brilliance” and made the Indians toil while Finch settled down at the other end. When he did get out, it wasn’t to a heedless heave like Head or Khawaja, instead, the part-timer got an odd bounce from the surface and had Harris tentatively fending to a delivery he was cutting all day long.
His half-century has ominous signs in there for India. When he gets going Harris can make massive hundreds like the double ton he smashed against New South Wales shortly before the series. He doesn’t go easy, has a penchant for consuming time at the crease and can fluidly go from defence to attack and back. Harris is here to stay and the Indians are certain to see a lot more of him in this series.