Justin Langer and Marcus Harris celebrate victory in Perth. Picture: Getty
Justin Langer and Marcus Harris celebrate victory in Perth. Picture: Getty

‘Little punk’ destined for Test greatness

Michael Beer was a Test player, with two international caps for Australia, and was being razzed in the West Australian dressing rooms before a Sheffield Shield game by a "punk" teenager.

In his first season with WA, Marcus Harris, who had become the youngest Shield player to make 150 when he smoked 157 in his third first-class match, aged 18, was giving his older teammate some "chirp".

The pair, despite an eight-year-age gap, had become mates during Harris' first full year in the state side. But as the friendly verbal assault continued, Beer was ready to hit back with what he thought was a fair line.

"He was getting in to me about something, as he always did, and I turned around. I asked him how many Test runs he'd made," Beer recalled this week.

"Mickey Arthur, who was the WA coach at the time, and Lachie Stevens (his assistant) pulled me up and said "don't worry Beery, he'll get you one day".

"And he has.

"Even back then coaches of their calibre knew the talent he had at age 18. And I knew it too.

"He was a 18-year-old little punk ... and he came in just after Christmas and showed how much talent he had from the word go."

For every outsider who has called Harris a Test bolter, there are dozens inside the game who saw his international elevation coming a long way out.

That includes Beer, still plying his Big Bash trade with the Melbourne Stars, and about as close a friend of Harris as anyone.

There has been plenty about Harris arrival on the Test scene that hasn't surprised Beer; his confidence, his seemingly unaffected state of mind, and the runs.

But also the left-hander's last ball classic on day four in Perth.

In a match that appeared at times to be more of an open-mic night for the Aussies, Harris took his turn.

As he put on his helmet to field at short leg, with the Aussies five wickets away from a first win since South Africa, and Harris' first as a Test player, the Two-test veteran offered Indian keeper Rishabh Pant some local advice.

 

Marcus Harris sledges chirpy India wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant in Perth.
Marcus Harris sledges chirpy India wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant in Perth.

 

"If you get out you can go out and disco tonight. Good circuit on a Monday night in Perth,'' Harris quipped.

It went global, and the 26-year-old's dad, Kim, chuckled as it was re-told to him.

"He's the king of the one-liners," Harris senior said.

"And he's had plenty of good teachers."

Beer said the "apple doesn't fall far from the tree", confirming what much of Australia has come to learn, that Kim Harris isn't bad on the chirp either,

But the best stuff is reserved for the lounge room, when Beer, Harris and their very dry Victorian teammate Jon Holland, all Test players now, are together.

They were so good at the verbal back and forth, dishing as they watched TV, the idea of applying for Gogglebox was raised, by Harris, who was pretty happy with his comedic efforts.

"It was built up during the JLT one-day series, the three of us sat on the couch, thought we'd all be good if they did a celebrity Gogglebox," Beer said.

"Harry was happy with it, he said we should ring up Channel 10. We didn't. You'd have had to highly censor it too, I'm not sure how much would get on air.

"It was just us being idiots sitting in a hotel room waiting to play cricket."

Beer and Harris were close in WA, but have been even closer since his move to Victoria. It was a move for cricket reasons, but there was another underlying motivation for Harris.

Living in Victoria allowed him to fully embrace his other great love, the Melbourne Football Club.

This born and bred West Aussie had no time for the Eagles and Dockers.

Instead he fell for the lure of enigmatic former Demon Jeff Farmer.

"When he was a young bloke, there was no one better than the Wiz," Kim Harris said.

"He tells people about it to this day, that Jeff Farmer could do things no one else could do".

It was Farmer who Harris tried to replicate playing junior footy in Perth, with good effect, until size became an issue.

 

Marcus Harris whips Ishant Sharma down to the boundary. Picture: AAP
Marcus Harris whips Ishant Sharma down to the boundary. Picture: AAP

 

Harris played against West Coast premiership star Jack Darling, and the struggle became real.

"Jack Darling as a 14-year-old was the size he is today. We'd send five blokes to him, and he'd still kick 12 goals a game," Harris senior said.

"Marcus loved his footy, loved snapping his goals, but he was little.

"When they started picking Marco up and throwing him over the boundary, we had the chat, and cricket was his first love, so we went down that path. It wasn't a hard decision to make."

Harris turned his mind to making the most of his abundant talent, going the extra mile too, and working with his own batting coach the whole time he was with WA.

But throughout it all, the big scores, then missing games, then having to move on from his own state, Harris never lost his sense of fun.

Beer said the Harris type of character was "worth its weight in gold in a cricket dressing room", and maybe none more so than the Australia rooms right now.

 

Marcus Harris become the youngest Shield player to make 150 as an 18-year-old.
Marcus Harris become the youngest Shield player to make 150 as an 18-year-old.

 

Under the pump, trying to rebuild faith with a fan base turned off by the actions of those who came before them, the new breed like Harris, with likeability as much as cricketing ability, are crucial.

Even the way Harris told his great mate Beer he was in the Test team smacked of no ego,

"I was looking after his new puppy. He sent me a text and said "you might be looking after the puppy for a bit longer". That's how I found out," Beer said.

"He's still riding the wave, and the most important thing he said to me was he's having fun out there."

His dad said ego was a dirty word for the Harris clan, and the lack of it could be key to Marcus having a long Test career.

"You won't change Marco easily," Kim said.

"He's been very comfortable under the radar, and done his talking with his results, rather than him talking himself up. You can set yourself up for a big fail if you start doing that.

"But that line to Pant was very good. It was typical Marco, just being himself."

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