JLT Sheffield Shield 2017-18

Harris happy to fly under the radar

As a seemingly endless stream of Test hopefuls dominate the Ashes conversation, Victoria's opener continues to impress

Louis Cameron

10 November 2017, 09:51 AM AEST

Amid the frenzied speculation over who will fill the two vacant spots in Australia's XI for the first Magellan Ashes Test, the name Marcus Harris has been largely absent from the conversation.

National selectors have made it clear that runs (or a lack of them) in the three JLT Sheffield Shield rounds before the series opener at the Gabba will be a major factor in determining who wins the No.6 and No.7 berths to take on England this summer.

Consequently, the likes of Shaun Marsh, Cameron Bancroft and even Jake Lehmann have all vaulted into the conversation for the No.6 spot following standout efforts for their states, with that trio among the challengers to leading candidates Glenn Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright.

But despite notching first-class century No.7 on Saturday, against South Australia in Victoria’s Shield clash at the MCG last week, Harris has been largely overlooked.

Harris slays SA with terrific ton

That's despite outscoring all of the contenders listed above, bar the impressive Cartwright, in last year's Sheffield Shield and capping off a breakout season with a century in the competition's five-day final, a match touted as the closest an Australian domestic player can get to a Test match without pulling on a Baggy Green.

While predominantly an opener, the left-hander has batted down the order in the past and as shown in his four-and-a-half hour knock on a turning surface in the Shield decider, he's far from just a new-ball specialist.

And while Harris isn’t fazed about the public's attention being turned elsewhere, the 25-year-old – whose luminous bleached blond hair from the Shield final has symbolically given way to a more low-key cut this season – says he feels ready for international cricket.

"I'm quite happy to go under the radar and do my thing," Harris told cricket.com.au.

"If I can just keep making runs in big games it's a good thing to me. I'm not too fussed if I'm spoken about or not.

Harris celebrates his century in last summer's Shield final // Getty
Harris celebrates his century in last summer's Shield final // Getty

"A hundred per cent, I feel ready (for a Test call-up). I've been around for a long time now.

"I'm prepared for whatever happens. You just have to keep doing all the right things and whatever happens down the track will happen down the track."

After six seasons playing for his native Western Australia, Harris made the move across the country for the 2016-17 summer with his ears ringing following a parting shot from Warriors coach Justin Langer, who described Harris as "mediocre with flashes of brilliance".

Those flashes had included becoming the youngest Australian to make 150 in a first-class match as an 18-year-old in just his third Shield game and a run-a-ball second-innings 158 against the Bushrangers in the 2015-16 Shield final.

Harris hundred piles on misery for SA

By his own admission, Harris struggled to make consistent contributions in between those eye-catching efforts.

But a change of scenery and a new environment at Victoria saw Harris, who struck a ton on Shield debut with his new side, quickly become the most reliable batsman in last summer’s most reliable Shield outfit.

"I was inconsistent in WA, there's all different sorts of reason for that," he explained. "It is a different environment here to what it was in WA.

"I knew I had to prove myself early on just to show the boys that I could play and get the respect of the team. More or less to prove that to myself as well.

"It's an environment I really thrive in, the way Victoria plays and it's a really enjoyable place to play.

Harris celebrates his century against South Australia // Getty
Harris celebrates his century against South Australia // Getty

"It's just a different way that we play cricket compared to how we played when I was in WA. It's a different mindset over here, a bit more ruthless, maybe, than when I was playing at WA.

"With the coaches and players in the group trusting me in what I'm doing, that gives you confidence going out to the middle rather than worrying about if you get out and make a mistake that you might get dropped in the next game.

"You can go out there a bit more free-minded. All I've got to think about is making runs."

With Harris firmly set on just that, a Test call-up remains a distant thought.

But he admits the scrutiny on these opening Shield rounds has been difficult to ignore.

Shield wrap: How Australia's Test hopefuls fared

"There's a lot more attention than normal and it sort of feels like whoever gets runs, all of a sudden, they're the next person in," said Harris.

"It felt a bit weird in regards to that. With it being an Ashes summer and the way it is at the moment, there's always going to be a lot of attention and with the Aussie team having a few spots up for grabs, that's only natural.

"It has felt a bit different to other years."

Should he keep peeling off big runs, this summer might be different for a far more exciting reason.

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

Gillette T20 INTL Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21