Justin Langer has likened likely Test debutant Marcus Harris to a little brother, insisting the opener who once shunned his mentorship can help halt Australian cricket’s malaise.
Harris, who was included in Australia’s 14-man squad for the first two Tests against India, is set to debut at Adelaide Oval on December 6.
A baggy green will cap a remarkable turn of events for Harris, whose career has gone from strength to strength since he walked out on Langer-coached Western Australia to join Victoria in 2016.
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Much has been made of Langer lamenting at the time how Harris’ “performances have been mediocre with flashes of brilliance”.
But the former Test opener, now in charge of the national team, says talk of bad blood is incorrect and hurtful.
“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,” Langer told reporters.
“It’s absolute myth and I hate myth.
“Marcus Harris is like my little brother.
“I used to throw millions of balls to him.
“And then he’d get 20 and I’d want to shake him every time and say you’re getting 20, that’s mediocre … what he’s done to his great credit is become consistent.”
Langer sent Harris a congratulatory message after he scored an unbeaten 250 in the Sheffield Shield last month. Another text followed the recent selection meeting.
“He said ‘welcome to the brotherhood you little bastard’,” Harris told reporters.
“It (the mediocre comment) didn’t really wind me up … I understood that if you put a lot of time into someone and they leave the state, you’d be upset. That was fine by me.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him … we ended on good terms.”
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“I tried to talk him into staying … we had a big hug and we’ve been in touch ever since,” he said.
Former coach Darren Lehmann is among the good judges to have likened Harris, who has scored 1951 Shield runs at 47.58 since joining Victoria, to Langer.
Harris and Langer’s shared history predates their time at the WACA. Both openers started their career at Perth club Scarborough.
“Everywhere I looked he was on the TV or down at Abbett Park. I definitely watched him,” Harris said.
“I haven’t tried to copy him at all, it’s just the way it’s ended up.
“We had the same batting coach, that probably had a bit to do with it.”
Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns noted it wasn’t just Harris’ recent innings that caught the eye of selectors.
“He made plenty of runs, he’s displayed the mental application we believe is required … he has performed in high-pressure matches, including Sheffield Shield finals,” Hohns said.
Harris’ Victoria teammates Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Chris Tremain and Peter Siddle were also included in the squad.
Usman Khawaja was selected and has overcome a knee injury, seemingly leaving Harris and Handscomb locked in a battle for the final spot in the XI.