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January 15, 2013
Man of the match in Barbados last year, Ryan Harris was the most furious man in the Caribbean when in Trinidad he became the first of three Australian pacemen to be omitted for preventative reasons over the past 12 months.
A few days later, the anger had cooled. Now, in the final stages of his recovery from shoulder surgery with the Ashes in mind, Harris admits that the current environment of insane schedules and diverse formats means players cannot be left to decide their own readiness: the instinctive desire to play as much as possible will invariably overrule common sense.
If the issue of rested cricketers regaining their places ahead of others who have performed in the interim sits heavily with Harris, he has agreed that for the moment there is unlikely to be a better way to preserve Australia's fast bowlers for the battles to be fought in India and England later in 2013. Like the national selector John Inverarity, Harris pointed that the lack of pre-season training is affecting the longevity of pacemen, who he stresses are otherwise as fit as they could possibly be.
"The scheduling is very difficult as it is, the amount of cricket we're playing, and guys have to rest," Harris told ESPNcricinfo. "What the bowlers are not getting is time to build up their strength, no pre-season. With the amount of bowling they do they don't have time for that. They do what we call priming sessions, light sessions. But they don't have enough time to get in and build up strength, because they're bowling and bowling and bowling, losing weight, losing strength. It's tough to get those sessions done, and that's why I think guys are falling over at times.
"With the rotation, we've got guys who can come in and do the job. If you rest the guys now, when we come to India and the Ashes when we really need our frontline bowlers, they pick the best four or five to go through those series and they do really well and they're rested and strong, that's when people are going to realise the system's warranted. If it means getting the Ashes back, people are going to understand."
Recalling the circumstances around his omission from the Trinidad Test XI, Harris demonstrated the range of factors that do not always make it into public view. Not only was Harris' speckled injury history a part of considerations, there was also the fact he had fought a stomach bug while notching a match-turning half-century and nipping out five wickets to help Australia prevail on a dead pitch at Kensington Oval.
"I had bowled a lot of overs, as we all did. I batted a bit as well and I actually was crook during that Test. So I barely ate anything and I'd lost four or five kilograms during that Test match, and was out there the majority of the time," Harris said. "We went to Trinidad and I was hurting, I was really sore and fatigued, and Mickey [Arthur] came to me and said 'how you feeling?'
|I said to Mickey later 'I wasn't happy when you rested me but I understand now, because of the way I'm feeling'. If I'd gone into that Test match, I would've potentially done a lot of damage. In that situation it was out of my hands and needed to be. Ryan Harris, on being left-out of the second Test in the West Indies|
"I said 'I'm okay, in two or three days I should be okay and I'll be ready to go'. That's when he said 'we're thinking about resting you' and I said 'I'm not keen on that' because I'd missed a bit of cricket. It got to the day before and he came to me and he said 'we're going to rest you'. I wasn't that happy, but the fact is if I'd have played that Test I would've struggled.
"Even though I was thinking I could've bowled the first day, the later overs in the second, third, fourth or fifth day would've really tested me. So that was a decision where I sat back and said to Mickey later 'I wasn't happy when you rested me but I understand now, because of the way I'm feeling'. If I'd gone into that Test match, I would've potentially done a lot of damage. In that situation it was out of my hands and needed to be."
Having been through that episode, Harris understood Mitchell Starc's anger and confusion when he was left out of the Boxing Day Test, a long-standing ankle problem this week revealed to have been a factor. But he conceded that the alternative would be to let fast bowlers dictate their own readiness, which would likely lead to longer-term injuries as enthusiastic cricketers kept going until worn joints and limbs snapped completely.
"It was the same thing as me in the West Indies, where he was saying 'no I'm right to play', but he's been sore, and they've taken it out of his hands," Harris said. "That's the tough thing about it, you come up to a Boxing Day Test, a childhood dream to play for Australia let alone on Boxing Day so it is a big decision to leave him out. The players don't want to be rested, but it's got to be taken out of our hands, because if you could help it, you'd play every Test. There's just times when if they're going to do it, they've got all the data, so it has to be taken out of our hands."
As for the question of appropriate training and sufficient fitness, a popular topic for agitation by numerous former Australia fast bowlers during the current times of heavy injuries, Harris spoke compellingly of the standards maintained in 2013. "Our bowlers are that fit it's not funny," he said. "Pete Siddle and James Pattinson are unbelievably fit, Pat Cummins is fit. When I'm at my peak I'm fit. You can't knock guys for not being fit, and not bowling enough.
"Everyone keeps bringing up 'the boys are told to bowl only a certain amount of balls'. If I want to bowl 15 overs in a net session I will bowl them. If I want to bowl six balls, I'll bowl six balls. They give us a guide on what to bowl, but if I'm not feeling good or need to bowl more to get things right, I'll bowl as many as I want. It's not all about sports science running the game, it's individuals as well, individuals choosing what they do leading into games and into training."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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