India in Australia 2011-12 January 19, 2012

Harris still wants to be Australia's go-to man

Injuries have kept Ryan Harris out of six of Australia's last ten Tests, but he still wants to play a pivotal role in leading the team back to No. 1. In the meantime, he is happy to support his fellow bowlers, as he did in Perth

Munching on breakfast in the Australian team's Perth hotel, before the Test match against India, Ryan Harris squinted at the television screen. The news ticker at the bottom of a morning program quoted Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, saying: "He [Harris] is as good a fast bowler as I have played with in my career."

Harris blinked, looked again. The statement was still there. He looked a third time, still not quite believing what he had seen. Clarke has played alongside some rather luminous bowling names, hasn't he? Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee among them. Harris remained a little incredulous. But there they were; those same unqualified words. Not sure whether or not he merited the praise, Harris nonetheless took the confidence they inspired, and set about helping the hosts demoralise India at the WACA. Days later, he still can't quite believe what Clarke said.

"I was a little bit shocked," Harris told ESPNcricinfo. "I had to read it three times to actually believe it. That's a great thing to have your captain say, and to have him compare me to some of the players he's played with is great. I don't compare myself to anyone else; I just go out, bowl and do my thing. But to have your captain say that shows that when I am fit and going he has got confidence in me."

That confidence was hard-earned in Sri Lanka, particularly on a Galle pitch that was concocted to assist spin, not speed. Harris was Australia's spearhead in Clarke's first match as full-time Test captain, and demanded the ball whenever a wicket was needed. Critically, he ended Mahela Jayawardene's second-innings knock at a time when he and Angelo Mathews were threatening something extraordinary. Harris said he liked being Clarke's go-to man.

"You're looking for him to throw you the ball and he has the confidence to do it. I want to be that guy who is given the ball if we need a wicket; I enjoy that situation, so it's nice of him to say that but I've also said to him a few times: 'If you need me to bowl I'm ready to bowl, no matter what'. That's my job, that's what I'm trying to do and to follow team plans while I'm doing that."

At the moment those plans are working for an Australian team that is still gathering itself after a year of introspection and change. Harris has been more of a cameo performer than he would like; injuries have kept him out of the team for six of the 10 Tests played since the start of the Sri Lanka tour. But he has been around the team enough to see how clear its vision has become, and how dedicated it is to returning to cricket's summit.

"That is what we're trying to achieve, we want to get that winning culture, those back-to-back Test match wins like we used to in the past. We knew it was going to be hard against India, so to be where we're at now and be 3-0 up it's really given the guys belief that we're able to play good cricket again, gel as a team, and win Test matches against one of the best teams in the world. With a bit of luck that winning culture will continue this Test [in Adelaide] and then hopefully in the West Indies."

Success away from home is something the Australian team craves, in apparent contrast to their quarry in the ongoing series. Australia's players were surprised and a little amused to be told "wait until you get to India" at various times in Perth, and Harris said victories overseas were the ambition of any team with a serious desire to be globally respected.

"I was a bit surprised when that came out; no matter where you go it is always hard to play in different conditions. When we were doing well, we were playing well in all conditions and that's what made us the best team in the world. I think that's what England are doing now and it is no surprise they are No. 1 in the world.

"If India want to talk about winning at home that's up to them; that's probably why they're not one of the best teams in the world, because they can't play well outside of India. That is up to them to sort out and make their players better when they leave home. We know when we go to India they'll prepare dust bowls and flat wickets for us, but that's a challenge that excites us, and we know if we win over there we would have won in probably the hardest place to play cricket in the world."

I don't usually get the inswinger on target to right-handers; it usually swings down the leg side. It was good to see it come out right in Perth
Ryan Harris says he knows he has built up rhythm when he starts swinging it both ways

Patience is a valued trait on the subcontinent, but it also aided Harris in Perth. In each innings he bowled considerably better than his figures indicated; his economy-rate spoke volumes for the pressure he imposed. Wickets were scarce, but Harris did not grow despondent as one ball after another slid past the outside edge. It helped greatly that others were benefitting from his efforts.

"You just have to stay patient. It's easy to get caught up in trying to attack more and more, but you've got to weigh up the options," Harris said. "The way we're going at the moment the guys at the other end like Hilfy [Ben Hilfenhaus] and Sidds [Peter Siddle] are taking wickets, so if I'm beating the bat and putting pressure on that's all I've got to do. I'm pretty keen to get wickets, but in the back of my mind I recalled Craig [McDermott], Ricky [Ponting] and Michael [Clarke] pointing out that at the WACA it's also about building pressure."

That pressure told on Rahul Dravid in the second innings, even as he was constructing India's highest stand of the match with Virat Kohli. Concentrating on away swing, Harris drew Dravid into expecting the same delivery each time, then surprised him with a ball that angled back into Dravid and uprooted leg stump. Harris said there was an element of fortune about the dismissal, but it was overdue given some of his earlier work.

"To be honest I didn't plan that dismissal. He [Dravid] was set and I had the ball going away a fair bit; I was bowling a lot of dots to him, building lots of pressure and that's how I got the wicket. The ball I actually bowled him with I was trying to swing away, but it didn't swing and it went through the gap."

If anything Harris was more delighted with another ball he bowled to Dravid: a perfectly pitched inswinger the batsman jammed down to third man after the bowler and slips cordon had assumed it was whirring into off stump. The inswinger is not a trick Harris has mastered, and he said he was glad to see it come off.

"If I am going reasonably well and feel good I bowl that ball, and it came out quite well. I don't usually get it on target to the right-handers; it usually swings down the leg side, but it was good to get it right. I thought I had him with that ball, but building that pressure was huge and that's what we've done with most of their batsmen, and they've struggled."

Harris impressed plenty of observers in Perth, some who had never seen him up close before. But it was no surprise to his captain, the author of those words Harris had been so surprised by at breakfast.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 21, 2012, 14:14 GMT

    @ zenboomerang Look India had played poorly their is no Doubt about that but that doesnt meant to be said Australia played really well.lack of application from the agging Indian batting line up made useful contribution to Australian dominance.If Aussies really Great Side they cant settled for draw against South Africa and New Zealand recently.Just England Biting the dust at the moment against Pakistan,Australia side Time will come when they tour India early next year

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    @Harry_Kool This my be ur sanctioned Sour grapes But let me remind you if the same troop of Bowling equipments travels India Their Bowling get tapped.Yes They have utilised tHE Condition magnificiently in the on -Going series and the Aging Indian batting line up failed to match their effort.But still they might be long way to call themselve the Fearsome Bowling at the moment.McGrath,Lee,Gillespie,Warne, etc Stuggled to contain India in India when they were in full flow.Their credential yet to be proved in Subcontinent

  • Roo on January 20, 2012, 6:43 GMT

    @Subhash Devadiga... Are you telling us that India is not as good as NZ... Surely not?... Same Aussie bowlers & pitches... Then you say "wait until you play us at home"... lol... Sorry, doesn't work that way... btw we beat you in a series in India a few years back & all our best players now play IPL each year - so you are training Aussies to be better in your home conditions... Warner loves playing in India, as do many other Aussie cricketers... Why doesn't India & SL cricket boards allow your players to come out to Oz to play SS or BBL?... Surely your loss, no ours...

  • Roo on January 20, 2012, 6:38 GMT

    @plod... Agree... Sth Aust doesn't have a decent bowling attack... Take out George, Christian, Lyon, then there isn't any depth... SACA really needs to import young up & coming talent into a pool of 5-6 pace bowlers & 2 good spinners... Otherwise they will never climb the SS ladder again...

  • Roo on January 20, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    @redneck... Harris grew up in Sth Aust with his mom (she died a little while back - big C) & home is where your heart is... Khawaja came to Oz at 4y.o. & calls it home... Cowan calls himself a Tasmanian now - its where he is happy... Christian calls himself a redback... etc... This State based eccentricity is mainly found in Vic & SA, & to a lesser extent NSW... I've lived in all States (& Territories) & call myself an Aussie first & for-most - I have no State bias... They can all be wonderful to live in...

  • Andrew on January 20, 2012, 2:58 GMT

    @JM_RSA - you are right. There have been a lot of comparisons between Steyn & Harris though. Harris will never accumulate the deserved kudos Steyn has achieved as he probably will never play 20 tests. They go about their business in similar ways. I think Steyn slightly more accurate (in the channell more), Harris faster. The swing factor is similar though! @Subhash, whether India wins in India or not against Oz there are several things you can bet your bottom dollar on; 1. It won't be the "same" Indian side as either or both of VVS & Dravid will be gone, 2. Oz will NOT "give up" like India did! Yes it is a tough tour for Oz playing in India. It is still our "final frontier", but under Pup, we will be touring knowing that we CAN win if we play good cricket!!!!

  • Andrew on January 20, 2012, 2:50 GMT

    @ IndiaKoBuchhoe - LOL! or Ouch if I were an Indian cricketer, very funny! @Ken Oliver - mate, several things, FIRSTLY, none of the pitches India played on were Green Tops in the traditional sense. Yes the WACA looked like one, 3 days out, but just played like it supposed to. The GABBA & Hobart were Green. There was NOTHING about the SCG that could be said to be a Green Top, the Indian 1st innings was just a result of pressure. SECONDLY, Oz have 3 fine test class spinners (+ another one who needs to change state). They are Lyon, Hauritz & O'Keefe. Yep, India will probably do well against them, but they did well against Warne too! Our spinners over there don't need to take wickets, they need to bowl tightly & build pressure in LONG spells. With Clarke as captain I suspect that Hauritz would be better next time around in India. THIRDLY, I want Indian pitches to favour spin, just don't want any Mumbai-like fiascos!

  • Peter on January 20, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    @JM_RSA. I think Jonesy writes to get a response, although that said, we all love Harris due not only to his outstanding bowling, and the huge heart he has. Steyn is the best around, no doubt, but we got a swag of guys we are just starting to enjoy as they all complement eachother & we can, seemingly replace one with another without weakening the attack. That's something we couldn't really have said in the past. India talk about their competitive series efforts in 03/04 & 07/08, but both series we didn't have Warne or McGrath. When we did have them here, we wiped them 3-0 in 99/00. Depth, that is the key of a strong side.

  • Nick on January 19, 2012, 22:06 GMT

    His problem is his body is not durable. Is this a factor when assessing how good a fast bowler is? It makes me this of guys like Shane Bond who along with McGrath, Pollock and Steyn are the best fast bowlers of the last 10 years. Harris is a late bloomer who still has a lot to prove with only 9 tests under his belt, but you cannot deny his numbers are impressive.

  • Jabulani on January 19, 2012, 13:35 GMT

    @Jonesy2 - be honest, this guy is no where near Dale Steyn. Harris is good but not the great he made out to be. He has onl played 9 test matches. He still has to prove himself.

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