Victoria coach McDonald backs Marcus Harris as Test opener

Marcus Harris celebrates his century Getty Images

Victoria coach Andrew McDonald has declared that opener Marcus Harris is ready to play Test cricket and believes Aaron Finch, who like Harris also plays for Victoria, is more suited to the middle order.

Harris, 26, put himself in contention for the first Test against India in Adelaide with a sparkling start to the Sheffield Shield season: he made 250 not out against New South Wales and two other half-centuries in his last three games. Finch made his Test debut on Australia's two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE in October, and made 62, 49, 39 and 31 at the top of the order.

McDonald said Harris was ready to go after watching his development over the last two-and-a-half seasons.

"He's [Harris] ready," McDonald told SEN radio. "He's matured. He knows his game better than previous seasons. The way he batted down (in Hobart) albeit he only got a 20-odd (22) and 67 in that run chase, it would have been nice to see him go on and get a bigger score, but the way he played, his batting movements are really, really repeatable, and his decision-making has been a lot better this year.

"He scores runs quickly, generally speaking. He played an innings of 250 earlier in the season, which was sizeable, where he showed a lot more patience. So that was the moment where some people out there may have said the penny may start to be dropping.

"We've seen him play some patient innings. But one of his traits is that against quality fast bowling he can score and put them under extreme pressure."

Harris had spoken about his own development this season, particularly in his decision-making. He had a lengthy conversation about the mental side of elite performance with Cathy Freeman, the Australian Olympic gold medallist and two-time World Champion 400m runner, during the off-season.

McDonald also said he would likely bat Finch in the middle order for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield clash against Queensland starting next Tuesday - Finch's only red-ball warm-up before the first Test against India.

"We've picked him in the middle order in the last three seasons I've been coach, so that gives you some thought on where I believe he's best suited," McDonald said. "We've got a couple of really good openers that complement each other really nicely at the top of the order. But there'll no doubt be some conversation around that depending on what the national selectors are going to do and the direction they'll take."

McDonald said he had not spoken to either Australia coach Justin Langer or chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns regarding Finch' batting position.

"I don't know their policy on that," McDonald said. "Look, I think any sort of cricket or any batting in any position for both Finch and Glenn Maxwell to put their hand up for selection, if they get time in the middle from whatever position they bat, I think that's probably fair preparation for the Test series. Albeit they may not be batting the specific position that they're going to play in. But that's not uncommon."

Finch had spoken about the challenge of having to switch between formats over the past month but McDonald said the change of position would be a greater challenge.

"I think the preparation won't be something that's out of the ordinary for him because of the fact that he's played county cricket, where they do shift between formats quite rapidly at times," McDonald said. "He can go from red ball to white ball and white ball to red ball throughout that season quite comfortably. I don't know where he's going to bat in the Australian line-up. If he does open that's probably going to be the big shift, marking centre, day one first up, as opposed to sitting down having a coffee and coming in in the middle order.

"So that will be something they will be preparing him for if that's where they're going to bat him. If not then he'll be pretty familiar with a middle order role if they go that direction as well."