No one wanted to be an opening batter in England during the 2019 Ashes, but now he’s on home soil this Australian batsman is primed to turn the tables.
Marcus Harris has known for a month he would be part of the Ashes squad after getting the backing of chief selector George Bailey and is adamant he‘s better placed than ever to take advantage of his latest opportunity at Test level.
The Victorian is getting his fourth crack after a stop-start opening 10 Tests spread across three different series since his debut against India in 2018 in a team cut apart by the sandpaper scandal when he opened with Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja.
Three of those Tests came against England in the 2019 Ashes, dominated, aside from Steve Smith, by bowlers who made life horrible for all opening batsmen, including Harris and David Warner who will walk out together in the series opener at the Gabba on December 8.
But as he spoke from his hotel quarantine room in Queensland, Harris revealed that Bailey told him in late October to prepare to be part of the squad before he’d even made a run for Victoria after a delayed start to its Sheffield Shield season.
Armed with the confidence of the selectors, Harris made a second innings hundred against NSW in his first game, an effort that was followed by twin MCG failures.
But Harris is now a batter who doesn’t ride the innings-by-innings rollercoaster. He said his big body of work, including a significant winter scoring runs in English country cricket, aided by the confidence of selectors, ensured he would walk out onto the Gabba confident of making a big Test impact this time.
“I think probably my last five or six Shield seasons have been really good and been consistent, so that’s the challenge as an opening batsman is you’re going to have games where you don’t do well,” he said.
“But being consistent and then obviously having those games where you might score hundreds as well gives me good confidence over my body of work that I’ve had over the last few years to sort of know that if I have that opportunity I feel like I can do that.
“When I speak to Bails (Bailey) he reinforced that, it makes you feel good.”
Harris said he was buoyed by that conversation with Bailey before the season began.
“It was just good to have some clear communication with a selector about what I was doing and what was in their mind and what was in their thinking for me,” he said.
“It puts your mind at ease a little bit. Your mind can run, obviously, coming into a big series like the Ashes with the amount of attention that’s brought to it.
“So to not have to worry about that for probably a month leading into the first game, it’s been pretty good.”
Harris knows his right pad will be a target for the English bowlers who made solid work out of coming around the wicket at him and Warner in England in 2019.
It’s hardly a surprise for a left-handed opener and not an area that has gone unaddressed in Harris’ preparation.
“Obviously, it’s been a ploy that a lot of teams have employed against me now to come around the weekend,” he said.
“And I feel like I’ve worked really hard on the technical side of my game and tactical to try and combat that. The proof will be in the pudding.
“It was obviously a tough first Test series over in England for myself. It wasn’t an easy series for anyone to open that summer, but obviously I’ve had plenty of time since then to try and work on a few things.
“It’s been tough for us guys from Victoria and NSW to get the amount of cricket in we would like, but having played a full winter of county cricket I’ve definitely played plenty of cricket so I’ll be ready to go.”