Australia v India Tests - Men
'You little bastard': JL's cheeky text
Coach Justin Langer says any thought of a rift between he and his "little brother" Marcus Harris is "a dagger in the heart"
22 November 2018, 05:29 PM AEST
"Welcome to the brotherhood, you little bastard."
Among Marcus Harris' many well-wishers on Thursday after his maiden call-up to Australia's Test side was national coach Justin Langer, his former mentor at WA whose words of a different tone more than two years earlier have shaped the recent public narrative around the batsman.
In a rare instance of a coach publicly panning a player, Langer, then at the helm of Western Australia, suggested Harris had been "mediocre with flashes of brilliance" in his six-year career with the Warriors after the young opener announced he was moving to join Victoria.
The “brilliance” Langer referred to was Harris becoming the youngest Australian to score a first-class 150 and posting 239 runs across both innings of the 2015 Sheffield Shield final in a losing cause. The mediocrity was a batting average in the low-thirties.
While the parting shot has been dragged back up every time Harris has made a run since, both men have emphasised they’re on good terms.
They had far too much in common not to be; like Langer, Harris is a nuggetty left-handed opener. Darren Lehmann, who'd been coaching Queensland when Harris scored his 150 against the Bulls in just his third Shield match, said Harris reminded him of Langer. Both Harris and Langer are from the Scarborough Cricket Club in Perth and both turned to local batting mentor Neil ‘Noddy’ Holder for advice.
Harris has conceded that Langer's words were spot on. Rather than being insulted, he took it as feedback.
Australia's squad for first two Tests against India: Aaron Finch, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood (vc), Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh (vc), Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (c, wk), Mitchell Starc, Chris Tremain, Peter Siddle.
And on Thursday, Langer made an impassioned, two-and-a-half minute plea to set the record straight.
"Let me squash this straightaway - Marcus Harris is like my little brother," said Langer. "I've known him at Scarborough Cricket Club since he was about 10 years old.
"Did I say (he was) mediocre with flashes of brilliance? Yeah I did, because that's what he was. That's the truth, look at it.
"I keep reading your guys' headlines (suggesting) there's a big thing about Justin Langer and Marcus Harris because he said he's mediocre – he's my little brother! I love him, I love him, he makes me laugh every time I see him.
"When I read those things it's like a dagger to my heart because I know it's actually not what happened."
In the two-and-a-half seasons since his move across the Nullarbor, Harris has become the consistent player Langer always wanted him to be. The opener averaged 43 in his first season with the Vics, 42 in his second and has 437 runs at 87 in four Shield games this season.
"As I've got older I've matured a lot more," Harris said.
"I've been able keep myself level when I left the playing field.
"I know when I was younger, if I got a hundred I'd be so up and then next game I'd come in and get a bit low (if I missed out).
"Being able to back up games and just being consistent has been my main focus the last couple of years and that's showed with my results."
Langer added: "What he's done (since leaving WA), to his great credit, is he's become a really consistent opening batsman with flashes of brilliance.
"And that's what really good players do and that's why he's been selected to play for Australia, because he's transformed himself from a young bloke who got really good 20s and some brilliant hundreds into a lot more consistent performances.
"He's had two very good seasons. That's why he's been selected."
Having been among the first to congratulate Harris by text when he pounded an unbeaten 250 against NSW at the MCG last month, Langer was again quick to congratulate his former protégé after the Test squad had been confirmed.
"He texted me just before (and) said, 'welcome to the brotherhood you little bastard',” said Harris, who’d just returned from ‘puppy school’ with his French bulldog Archie when he was told he’d made the Test squad.
"We're both from the same club team in Perth … it's one of those things where everywhere I looked, JL, he was either on the TV or was down at Abbett Park (Scarborough’s home ground).
"I definitely watched him a bit. 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 but it's just the way it ended up."
India Tour of Australia 2018-19
Domain Tests v India
First Test: December 6-10, Adelaide Oval
Second Test: December 14-18, Perth Stadium
Third Test: December 26-30, MCG
Fourth Test: January 3-7, SCG