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Cricketers reflect on their lives and times

Chris Harris

'I would have loved to have played international T20'

With his slow medium-pace bowling and exceptional fielding, the former New Zealand allrounder reckons he could have done well in the shortest format

Interview by George Binoy

October 11, 2012

Comments: 37 | Text size: A | A

Chris Harris of the Hyderabad Heroes takes a break during practice, November 20, 2007
Aka Lugs © AFP
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Players/Officials: Chris Harris
Teams: New Zealand

I had two older brothers, so the first three or four years of my life, as soon as I learned to walk, I used to just field in the backyard. They would occasionally let me have a bat and a bowl, but if I batted for too long they'd just give me a bad decision and say that I was out. So I guess that's where my fielding abilities came from.

I should have played more Test cricket. But at the end of the day your destiny is in your own hands. If I'd played more consistently and better, I think I would have got the opportunity to play more Tests.

Once, in the 1990s in Colombo, Sachin Tendulkar was playing us well on a flat wicket. He was dominating me, as he often did. Then I bowled a quicker one which slid down the leg side. He tried to turn it but got a leading edge. It came back and I just dived full stretch and took it in one hand. I actually won an award for it.

I don't think any dressing room is that different to any [other]. They are very similar. Generally the chat is the same, it's talking about cricket. People are talking about how fast a guy bowled, how much it was spinning, how big the six was, and I think that's why cricket's such a great game, because no matter where it happens in the world, to me everything is very similar.

I don't think I've batted better than the 1996 World Cup quarter-final against Australia. But there's times when I've batted under more pressure and helped win New Zealand a game. Batting in Madras in that horrendous heat and humidity was tough. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do, because then I ended up bowling ten overs on the trot as well. But unfortunately, it was to end up on being the losing side.

The world's an oyster for the cricketer now. There are just so many options. In my day you obviously had to play international cricket. I'd like to believe that's still every cricketer's dream, but now there's just so many other options.

I learned very early on in my career not to sledge too much. Purely because I found that when I sledged, it backfired. I remember doing it with Craig Spearman in a first-class game. I bowled a length ball that he left and then he practised the pull shot, and I remember saying to him, "Don't practise it, if you're good enough, play it." And then next ball he hit me out of the ground for six.

I don't remember the exact phone call. I just remember them saying you're in the team to go to Australia [in 1990].

My brothers used to call me Bugs, because I had two very big front teeth. And they thought I looked a bit like Bugs Bunny. But one day I was at a swimming pool and I slipped over and chipped my front tooth. So I had only one big tooth, so they said we can't call you Bugs, so we'll call you Lugs, because your ears are quite big.

My bowling action was accidental. If I had my time again, I think I would have tried to change it earlier.

I was told at a very early age, in under-age teams, that as selectors you get put in a situation where there may be two people with very even batting and bowling skills and they are not sure which way to go. They always go back to who's the best fielder.

I guess for us, being New Zealanders, the team we really wanted to do well against was Australia. Purely because they were our big neighbours, that was always the massive competition, not just in cricket but in all sports. It's something we've always treasured, our wins against Australia.

I would have loved to have played international T20 cricket. When it first came out I thought as a bowler, as a slow bowler, a spin bowler, you think you're probably going to get hurt quite badly. I think now T20 cricket has shown that the spinners have got a massive role to play. From that perspective, I would have had an all-round role.

Martin Crowe was such a batting technician. Just always loved to watch him, especially playing fast bowling. I was fortunate enough to play with him a lot in my career.

I don't think you can focus too much on your successes and failures or concentrate too much on them. Any cricketer is going to have more failures than successes. You're high one day and you're low the next.

"I should have played more Test cricket. But at the end of the day your destiny is in your own hands. If I'd played more consistently and better, I think I would have got the opportunity to play more Tests"

Merv Hughes was quite abusive to me but he's a guy who is very friendly off the field and I got on very well with him. I remember playing a New Zealand President's game against Australia and he bowled me a couple of bouncers that I nicked over slips. He came down and said, "I don't want to get you out now, I just want to kill you."

As any growing boy you want to follow in your father's footsteps, so I always wanted to play cricket for New Zealand.

My 250th ODI was effectively the end of my international career, because I injured my shoulder and had to have three operations to put six pins to re-attach my tendon to my shoulders. It was a very emotional day. I guess in some ways I'm still dealing with it now, because at the time I thought I was always going to come back. I just thought it was a matter of patching my shoulder up - might be out for six months and then I'll be back. I guess coaching is a way of holding on to it a little bit.

I actually turned 21 over in Australia in my debut series. In those days the Australian crowds were pretty big and menacing. I remember getting a lot of abuse. But I remember it fondly. It was a wonderful experience.

I can remember three overseas trips - Sri Lanka twice and once in Pakistan - where bombs exploded in the vicinity of the team hotel. Those experiences showed me how vulnerable you can be. When your time's up, your time's up. There's nothing you can do about it. Even though I don't think we were directly targeted in any of those attacks, if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, there's no discrimination in the blast zone.

I think in some ways my bowling action gave me some of my success, because I bowled off the wrong foot. It meant I didn't have much body momentum and I didn't get a lot of pace on the ball. I guess people tended to play earlier than they should have.

No matter how good a player you are, you spend more time fielding than anything else.

I opened twice. In Wellington, India batted first and got quite a few runs. It had never been discussed before that I was opening, and then at lunchtime Ken Rutherford, who was captain at the time, came to me and said we want you to open the batting. It took me by surprise. I remember facing [Javagal] Srinath and there was a big lbw appeal early on. I remember charging down the wicket a few times and ended up getting 44. I got out caught at cover off [Anil] Kumble, but that innings gave me confidence. I then went to Christchurch and got out for a duck and never opened again.

I like to think I'm a bit of a people person. I'd like to think I'm reasonably friendly, and I'm pretty happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. I'd like to think that most players I played with and against, if I saw now, I'd cross the street and say hi and we'd have a coffee together, or a beer.

If you're not bowling the only way you can be involved is obviously by fielding. I guess I took it upon myself to try and test myself all the time and say, "Look, if I'm in the circle, I'm going to make sure they don't get one to me. Or if I'm on the boundary I'm going to make sure they don't get two. Every chance that comes to me I'm going to try and grab no matter how far away it is." Because I enjoyed it, I try and encourage all cricketers to do it.

I'd always tend to put my front pad on first, and if I'd batted through to lunch or tea, I'd always want the other batsman to cross the rope first. I'd mark my crease six times. And if I tapped my bat out in the middle, I'd have to do that six times as well.

I've played in four World Cups and I think we've been pretty consistent. I guess the saddest thing is never to have won a World Cup. We had the best chance in 1992, just because we had the momentum. If we had knocked out Pakistan, going to Australia and playing in Melbourne, we'd have given ourselves a good chance of winning.

The ICL was a wonderful concept and it was a shame it didn't continue. I loved it. It was a wonderful experience, being involved with a lot of local Indian players, young up-and-coming players, and some other international players from other teams. I guess at the end of the day the BCCI was trying to protect its own tournament. It was tough from New Zealand Cricket's point of view as well. They had to be seen to support the Indian board.

I still live in Christchurch. I was in England at the time of the earthquake and my family was home. I got on the flight the next day and came home. It was horrendous. Everyone was extremely shaken up. I guess in some ways you feel pretty guilty, but it made it an easier decision to move out of Christchurch to start my coaching career [in Zimbabwe]. Although Christchurch has always been my home and a wonderful place to live.

Chris Harris takes a catch to dismiss Abdul Razzaq, New Zealand v Pakistan, 2nd ODI, Napier, February 20, 2001
"No matter how good a player you are you spend more time fielding than anything else" © Getty Images

I think the best lesson I can pass on is to try and keep focused and ride a straight line as opposed to riding the wave.

We just had a plan to go out and go hard all the time. I think it sort of clicked against Australia. We said we've got nothing to lose. We're going to take them on. I think after that it flowed and we said this is the way we're always going to play. Always feel as though we've got a chance, whatever it takes, never die wondering.

I was very lucky. There are some people who got injured very early in their career. I felt very fortunate to have represented my country in 250 ODIs. Loved every moment of it. Are there things I'd change in my career? Not too much.

It's always nice to play with your brother. I played a little bit with Ben for Canterbury. He also played for Otago. I was more nervous watching him than when I was playing. [Playing against him] was similar. You're still nervous for him. Obviously you want your team to win, but it's always nice to see your brother do well.

I didn't mind the new ball, because in those days I was bowling a little bit of medium-pace inswingers, so the newer the ball, the more it swung. I think I was a much better bowler when the ball was swinging as well, because it gave me more variations.

Winning the ICC Knockout in 2000 was one of the best triumphs of my career.

The big difference for me from one-day cricket to Test cricket is that in one-day cricket I think I was a genuine allrounder, generally bowled my ten overs and batted in the middle order. In Test cricket I was seen more as a batsman who bowled a bit, so I put a lot more pressure on my batting, and I guess that weighed on me a little bit. That made it more difficult for me to have consistency and longevity in Test cricket.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (October 13, 2012, 2:51 GMT)

I can never remember Chris not smiling, and having a very postive outlook in his game. One thing I never understand was there was a change in the way he bowled part way though his career. He used to have an awesome late swing bowl which moved as much in the air, as much as Warne could get off the pitch....and then it seemed to disappear from his arsenal

Posted by   on (October 13, 2012, 2:27 GMT)

did a poster of Harry and took it to lancaster park in christchurch. It was Michelangelo's creation of adam with Harrys face over Adam's. That day he played a blinder and the poster was on tv everytime he hit a four. My Mum taped it off the tv. she still has it somewhere on VHS. have to buy a Video recorder one day so i can watch again.

Posted by Toescrusher on (October 12, 2012, 14:51 GMT)

Chris Harris will be remembered in Pakistan for his run out to Inzmam in 1992 World Cup Semi Final and superb attempts to run out Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram in the same inning; if these two attempts were successful most likely New Zealand would have been the winner of 1992 World Cup Semi Final. These were very memorable moments of the World Cup 1992 and Chris Harris played crucial part in it. Nothing to worry about not getting enough chances, with the limited exposure Chris has entertained us plenty.

Posted by wasim_007 on (October 12, 2012, 12:29 GMT)

Wish you all the best for future...lovely ...We liked you very much while were great on field and we liked every time. I think you hit the 4 on last ball of johnson(ZIM) in ICC were two lovely guys (Chris) in was electric in field and another was good with bat...Wishing you all the best....

Posted by hasitha81 on (October 12, 2012, 1:46 GMT)

One of the great players produced by NZ. Good luck with your future Chris...

Posted by AbdulHanan on (October 11, 2012, 22:21 GMT)

At the moment I am in Palmerston North (New Zealand). I wish I should meet him sometime.

Posted by AbdulHanan on (October 11, 2012, 22:19 GMT)

One of my favourite players. I always enjoyed his fielding. A great sportsman, I think, there is no record of his bad conduct with the players in the field. Like others, I liked his interview.

Posted by cheesemethod on (October 11, 2012, 22:03 GMT)

A tight ODI bowler and was NZs batting version of Michael Bevan and fielding version of Jonty Rhodes. Would have loved to see you in some t20i's playing for your country Harry!

Posted by krik8crazy on (October 11, 2012, 22:03 GMT)

I was fortunate enough to witness Harris play at a stadium. His fielding was electric. He would slide, stop, get up and throw the ball to the keeper all in one action. He had unbelievable quickness. His knock in the '96 semi final was an epic but sadly, his team ended up losing. That was one of the matches whose result I feel bad about even after all these years.

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (October 11, 2012, 20:33 GMT)

Chris Harris was one of those dibbly-dobbly NZ bowlers who were difficult to get away. In the 90s NZ had many such useful ODI bowlers including Gavin Larsen & Nathan Astle. I am not sure where these kind of bowlers have disappeared. I remember Tendulkar didn't particularly enjoy facing those kind of bowlers. He used to attack fast bowlers and spinners in the 90s, but it didn't seem like he used to enjoy facing bowlers like Chris Harris, Hansie Cronje, Nathan Astle etc.. Chris Harris was particularly hard to hit...his bowling used to put batsman's timing off. There was no correlation between speed of his arm and the speed with which the ball arrived to the batsman! As one of the comments mentioned, you can see a glimpse Chris Harris in Kohli's bowling action. But of course, he is not as good as Chris as a bolwer.

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George BinoyClose
George Binoy Assistant Editor After a major in Economics and nine months in a financial research firm, George realised that equity, capital and the like were not for him. He decided that he wanted to be one of those lucky few who did what they love at work. Alas, his prodigious talent was never spotted and he had to reconcile himself to the fact that he would never earn his money playing cricket for his country, state or even district. He jumped at the opportunity to work for ESPNcricinfo and is now confident of mastering the art of office cricket

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