Marcus Harris is poised to make his Test debut against India. Picture: Hamish Blair/AAP
Marcus Harris is poised to make his Test debut against India. Picture: Hamish Blair/AAP

‘You knew he was special’: Hussey on Test bolter

IN 2016, Marcus Harris left Western Australia in search of greener pastures in Victoria.

Having made history as the youngest Australian to pass 150 in a first-class innings, when he was 18 years old in 2011, he left as a 23-year-old with an average of 28.43 across his 76 innings for WA.

Then Western Australia coach Justin Langer's departing comments for him were not kind, but they were also prophetic.

"His performances have been mediocre with flashes of brilliance," Langer told The West Australian newspaper.

"Marcus played more than 40 matches for WA and scored just four centuries.

"That must be frustrating for him, as it is for the coaches and fans.

"I respect the fact that our program is not for everyone and he leaves with our best wishes and the hope that he can one day play for Australia."

Marcus Harris left Western Australia in 2016.
Marcus Harris left Western Australia in 2016.

Two-and-a-half years later and Langer, now coach of Australia, has called up Harris for a likely Test debut.

"Welcome to the brotherhood, you little bastard," was the text message Langer sent him, according to Harris.

Now 26 years old, the left-handed opener still has "flashes of brilliance" but he has paired them with consistency, averaging 47.58 with five centuries across 25 first-class matches for Victoria.

This season he sits second for runs scored (437 at 87.40) in the Sheffield Shield. He finished ninth last season (706 at 41.52) and fourth in 2016-17 (808 at 42.52).

He capped off that campaign with a century in the decider against South Australia.

They're numbers Mike Hussey believes Harris always had in him.

The duo's careers overlapped for two seasons at WA and the Australian great said the opener's potential was always there to see.

"You knew he had something special because he would pull some innings out of the box that would make you go wow", Hussey told foxsports.com.au.

The former Australia batsman says it is Harris ability against pace that particularly stood out to him.

"He had time against some of the real quicks," Hussey said.

"He was able to knock them off their line and length by playing aggressive cricket. That really stood out and made you go wow, some of the shots he was playing against quality fast bowlers was really impressive."

Mike Hussey spent two seasons at Western Australia with Marcus Harris.
Mike Hussey spent two seasons at Western Australia with Marcus Harris.

Like Langer, Hussey identified the missing ingredient in Harris' game as consistency.

"You always saw that the ability was there, you just needed to see it on a more consistent basis and now he's been able to do that," he said.

It's consistency Harris puts down to simple maturation.

"As I've gotten older and matured a bit more I've been able to keep myself on a level playing field", he told reporters on Thursday.

"I know when I was young if I got a hundred I'd be so up, then the next game I'd come in almost get a bit low.

"Just being able to back up game after game and just to be consistent has been my main focus in the last couple of years and it has probably gone to show in my results."

Harris was likened to Langer in playing style by former Australia coach Darren Lehmann, who saw Harris make his first Sheffield Shield century as an 18-year-old.

Harris says the similarities are no coincidence. While he did not go out looking to emulate the famous opener, he was seemingly always destined too.

"We're both from the same club team in Perth," Harris said.

"Everywhere I looked JL was either on the TV or down at Abbert Park.

"I definitely watched him a bit and we had the same batting coach so that probably had a bit to do with it. I didn't try to copy him at all, it's just the way it ended up."

Hussey was particularly happy with the call-ups for Chris Tremain and Marcus Harris.
Hussey was particularly happy with the call-ups for Chris Tremain and Marcus Harris.

For Hussey, the selection of Harris as well as fast-bowler Chris Tremain, should serve as encouragement for the players who missed out. The path back to Test selection has been made clear.

"It sends a good message to the competition that if you perform well at the level below at Sheffield Shield level then you'll be considered for the Test team," he said.

"He's been doing the business now for a few years for Victoria on a consistent basis. This is good reward for some consistent performances over a period of time, not just a few innings."

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