James Harris ready for 'huge challenge' of Covid-19 after election as PCA chair

Negotiations have resumed between players union, ECB and counties over potential pay cuts

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
James Harris is the new PCA chair  •  Getty Images

James Harris is the new PCA chair  •  Getty Images

James Harris has admitted that the English game still faces "a huge challenge" in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic upon his election to the role of chair at the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA), but said that he is confident that he will be able to steer the organisation through choppy waters.
The PCA resumed its negotiations with the ECB and the first-class counties on Monday afternoon as they continue to discuss collective solutions including the possibility of further temporary salary cuts, but hopes that with the prospect of a full domestic schedule and fans returning to grounds this summer, such measures will soon no longer be necessary.
Harris, the Middlesex seamer, was confirmed as Daryl Mitchell's successor on Monday, after serving as vice-chair alongside Heather Knight since last June and as Middlesex's player representative before that, and described his election as a "huge honour" in his first media interaction in the position.
"I've got some big shoes to fill in those of Daryl Mitchell, who has done a brilliant job," Harris said. "I was always keen if the role came up and thankfully I've had the support of lots of my colleagues around the country. It's great that I can lean on Mitch - he's got another month in the post and hopefully I can get up to speed and make sure I'm as clued up as I can be.
"No doubt, there's a huge challenge in front of us. Everyone involved in the game did brilliantly last year, playing as much cricket as we did - at the start of last summer, it would have looked a long way off.
"It's about seeing us through to the end of this pandemic [and building on] the work that Daryl did, getting the players' committee together and coming up with everything that they have to see us through with collective agreements. There may be more of that required, but we hope there isn't too much more. We want to be as responsible towards the game as we can be, so that we can build as strong a game as possible around the country."
Harris also gave his endorsement for the Hundred, describing it as a "fantastic concept" which will be a "massive showpiece for cricket in this country". The PCA's initial response to the Hundred was lukewarm in 2018 when the ECB unveiled its new competition, with concerns raised over the 100-ball format and possible conflicts of interest, but has since thrown its support behind it.
"It's just another part of a cricketer's career," Harris said. "Guys will try and make their way into Hundred teams, and it's going to provide a lot of opportunities for guys in county cricket, perhaps who wouldn't have necessarily got a look-in at certain times or for younger guys who might get pushed into the first team a bit earlier.
"It's a different concept. It's exciting. It's something that's going to bring a lot of eyes from around the world onto English cricket, which can only be a good thing."
Harris becomes chair at a time when the PCA's active playing membership is bigger than ever before, with 41 new members following the ratification of women's domestic contracts at the end of last year. While he admitted that he has "a lot of learning to do across all areas of the game, both men's and women's", Harris said that he had already reached out to Knight - who will continue as vice-chair - and Kate Cross, the England women's representative in recent days.
"I'm going to support everybody as well as I can," he said. "We're building up relationships as much as we can already, and it's a really exciting time in the women's game as well, having those new members join the PCA and become full-time professionals. It's a great time for everyone involved in the game whether male or female."
One relationship that Harris will already feel secure in is that with the PCA's chief executive, Rob Lynch, who was previously Middlesex's commercial director and chief operating officer, and took over from Tony Irish on a full-time basis in October. Lynch, who had no say in Harris' election, said that he had been "thrilled" to hear he had been chosen for the post.
"I've known him for four or five years and he was always one of my favourite guys to work with at Middlesex," Lynch said. "We have to put some stability inside the PCA which has been one of the challenges over the last couple of years through some changes in leadership at the top. This year is about rebuilding and being clear about our purpose and our role in the game.
"Our job is to find the line between playing a responsible stakeholder role and also pushing tooth and nail for the rights that the players have, because we recognise that we'll need to continue with that we've done. We're all hoping to get back to a more normal set-up as soon as we can."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98