Pakistan Tests 'a realistic goal' - Harris
Reports of the death knell sounding on Ryan Harris' career have been greatly exaggerated. So says Harris, anyway. As he was bowling Australia to a series win late on day five in Cape Town, it was hard for outsiders to know what his international future would hold. At 34, he was due for surgery on a chronic knee problem when he returned to Australia. Would he ever wear the baggy green again?
Not only does Harris believe he has plenty of international cricket ahead of him, he believes it is possible he will not even miss a Test. Australia do not play Test cricket again until an away series against Pakistan around October, giving Harris half a year to work his way back to full fitness. Having had his operation, Harris was on crutches in Melbourne on Wednesday but said he felt fantastic.
"It's nowhere near my career over," Harris said. "I did this to prolong it more than anything. My knee is damaged - probably a little bit more damaged than the last time they went in a few years ago. But it's still a good knee. After what I've put up with in the last few weeks, I can probably put up with just about anything now. I'm already looking forward to hopefully getting back for the Pakistan tour. That's my goal, and a very realistic goal.
"It's feeling better today and yesterday than it felt before I went in. It's good relief. A couple of days after the last win and when I got home it was actually quite painful. It's been cleaned out, which is what I've been waiting for for a while. There was a fair bit in there. I saw a couple of pictures of quite big pieces of cartilage. They were a lot bigger than what I thought they were going to be."
At times in South Africa, Harris was visibly troubled by the injury and it caused him significant trouble on the flight home, when the knee locked up and would not return to normal. That led to a long, painful journey, but discomfort is nothing new to Harris. He is resigned to the likelihood that he will need a knee replacement when his playing days are over, but for now wants his surgeon David Young to do whatever it takes to extend his playing career.
"I've already told the surgeon just keep me on the park for another two or three years and we'll worry about that later," Harris said. "I'll give him his money later, it's already guaranteed. I probably am [going to need a replacement] at some stage. But again I just want to do whatever I can now to keep playing in this team and enjoying the success that we've been working so hard to get to."
Harris finished the South African tour as the No. 2 bowler in the world, according to the ICC rankings, and although it seemed impossible for him to gain any more respect, his late-afternoon efforts to finish off the South African tail in Cape Town proved otherwise. Remarkably for a man who has been in and out of the Test side with injuries since his 2010 debut, Harris has now played 12 consecutive Tests.
It was almost not the case, though. Harris said after the WACA Test in which Australia secured the Ashes, he had spoken with Young about the best plan for managing his knee, and whether to have the required surgery immediately or hope it held out until after the South African series.
"He was probably more the one that said to wait," Harris said. "He wanted to see me play out here in a Boxing Day Test and finish the series, and then South Africa. He along with [team doctor] Peter Brukner and [physio] Alex Kountouris have been amazing throughout this whole thing. They've kept me going and to have those series wins under our belt as a team is fantastic."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here