Paul Harris joins Lions franchise
Paul Harris, the South Africa left-arm spinner, has completed a move to the Lions franchise in a bid to be included in the national squad for the 2011 World Cup. Harris left the Titans after eight seasons with the Centurion-based franchise because a lack of game-time in the limited overs formats of the game.
The Titans were unable to guarantee Harris a place in all three versions of the game because of the continued good form of Roelof van der Merwe and Faf du Plessis, whereas the Lions have assured Harris that he will start the season as their first-choice spinner. "Obviously, if I bowl badly, and then I don't play I can accept that, but at least I know I will be at the frontline at the beginning of the season," Harris told Cricinfo.
He will face stiff competition from the current crop of spinners at the Lions that includes Werner Coetsee and Aaron Phangiso, and Lions coach Dave Nosworthy has said the rivalry among players will be healthy. "There are never any guarantees when it comes to selection and it will be good to have players fighting for positions. We are very happy to give Paul the opportunity to challenge for a spot in the South African team with us and I think our players will also learn a lot from a guy like him."
Nosworthy and Harris will be reunited at the franchise, after the former discovered Harris "languishing at Western Province B" almost ten years ago. Harris played under Nosworthy at the Titans and hopes being with his old coach will trigger a positive reaction. Harris has also informed the national powers-that-be of the reason behind his move and said Corrie van Zyl and Graeme Smith are aware of his intentions to crack the one-day side. "Everyone has been very supportive of my move and told me that they think it will be good for me and my game."
Harris said he has no particular plan to unseat the likes of Johan Botha or van der Merwe at the national level but that he hopes, "by getting game time and taking wickets, I will be able to put my hand up for selection. If I perform well and don't manage to get selected, then maybe I can just help the Lions win a few trophies," he said.
The beleaguered Johannesburg-based franchise has won only one trophy since the franchise system began and developed the reputation of whipping boys in all three domestic competitions, although they made a surprise entry into the pro20 final in the past season. Harris said he had knowledge of the internal strife that has plagued the GCB since last year. "I am going to just focus on the game and whatever happens behind the scenes is not my issue. I just want to play cricket." The union is currently awaiting an investigation by Cricket South Africa into issues surrounding the legitimacy of its board.
Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg