My life in sport: Chris Harris

By Chris Rattue

Chris Harris. Photo / Getty Images
Chris Harris. Photo / Getty Images

He's gone from cult hero to the grand old man of New Zealand cricket in one swoop, after returning to our first class scene at the tender age of 40 following a two-year absence.

Harris - the father of new twins - was no token golden oldie: he notched a century and grabbed a few wickets for Canterbury against Auckland in Christchurch last week.

He's hardly been idle however, captaining Hyderabad in the Indian league and playing for one of the many English league sides who pop up on all sorts of CVs.

Harris says the Plunket Shield competition was never really off his agenda, even if the rest of us had assumed he had given the four-day game away.

He was absent last year because Canterbury were out of the title hunt once he was available. After good lead-in form this season, he got the call-up when Peter Fulton joined the Black Caps.

The former Black Caps one-day star, who made his name as a marvellous exponent of wobbly bowling and as one of the best fielders to ever play the game, dismisses any fuss about his veteran status however.

When you love the game as much as Harris does, it's only natural to continue on. And you are as old as you feel, he claims, which in Harris' case means he is only 30.

Geoffrey Palmer was the Prime Minister when you first played for Canterbury, which is an awfully long time ago ...

Funnier still, there's a bloke in our team, Corey Anderson, who wasn't even born when I started playing for Canterbury. I keep getting reminded of that. This is my 21st season I think.

So life goes on as normal at 40 then?

I don't feel 40. A lot of people see it as a magical number and I can understand how some cricketers feel they've had enough, want to get on with their lives, may even have bodies which are feeling sore. But I'm not even close to that stage. I still feel fit and the desire is there. So long as I stay fit, I've got two or three seasons left in me, I reckon.

How has cricket changed?

It hasn't changed much in many ways ... however there is the influence of technology of course and some would argue that the bats are a bit better. We have drop-in pitches now - when I started you could strike a poor surface at places like Lancaster Park where rugby was played on the same ground.

Twenty20 has helped revolutionise the game and you see a lot more positive batting in all cricket. Players have been forced to come out of their shells and shots like the reverse sweep are commonplace. The bats have made quite a bit of difference - the ones coming out of India are bigger but there is a lot less moisture in the wood which means they are still light.

They just don't last as long. The ball is being hit harder and further and tends to clear the boundary more - it's the same sort of effect that the big club heads on drivers have had in golf.

What are your career highlights?

Winning the ICC Champions Trophy in 2000 in Kenya. It was the first significant tournament win outside of New Zealand. We were five down for about 130 in the final against India when I joined Chris Cairns. He won it for us with a century but I played my part with 46 and we put on about 120.

The individual highlight was hitting 130 against Australia [in Madras] in 1996. [Coach] Glenn Turner told us we needed 300 and told me to bat at number five and go for it. I thought "great, I'm supposed to smash the best bowlers in the world all over the place - you're not asking much". I didn't hit Shane Warne so much, but more their fast bowlers. Unfortunately we lost. Winning the Commonwealth Games bronze medal was also great.

Low points?

The shoulder injury I suffered in my last game for New Zealand in 2004 ... and getting dropped after a tour of South Africa where I batted really well, but didn't get a chance in the tests. My one-day form hadn't been too good, but it was still a blow to get dropped when we got home. In a way though it helped revitalise my career.

I was told that bowlers drifting the ball into the batsmen were getting hit, and they wanted players who could move the ball away. That's when I started to develop those sort of fast leg spinners that helped turn me into a genuine all-rounder.

Who is the greatest bowler you have faced?

I'd have to put it into categories. For fast bowling, Wasim Akram was the best without a doubt. He was unbelievable, incredible. He could swing it both ways for a start.

He'd bowl you a medium paced delivery and you'd think "that's not too bad - I can handle that". The next ball would nearly take your head off. For spinners, Murali and Warnie. I found Murali slightly harder probably because I bat left-handed.

And batter?

Sachin Tendulkar. Even if you strayed slightly off line, he would make you pay every time. You might get away with it against the others.

Who were your sports heroes as a kid?

Lots. I remember in particular the 1982 soccer World Cup and the All Whites. There were Brazilians, like Zico and Socrates, and also the New Zealand players such as Steve Sumner and Frank van Hattum. We loved whatever was going on at the time. I also loved the McEnroe-Borg tennis finals.

If you weren't a cricketer, what would you like to be?

A Formula One driver or a golfer. I say F1 because that is seen as the pinnacle of car racing, but I love any type of racing. I went in a smash-up derby in Ashburton once. I bought an Austin Cambridge and came fourth or fifth. I didn't let my cricket bosses know of course.

Golf and car crashes ... you should hook up with Tiger Woods. Moving on, what are your hobbies?

All sports. I love playing golf.

Ambitions?

To take each ball one at a time. I don't really set big goals like playing 200 games for Canterbury or anything like that. I've just always loved playing this game. Of course my father [Zin] played for New Zealand and I had two brothers so I was virtually forced to play at first. I love the game now as much as I ever have. I really enjoy seeing others learning and developing and it's great to think you might have played a small part in helping a young player's career.

Finally Chris, do you see yourself as someone making a stand for the older brigade, an inspiration perhaps?

Honestly, I still think I'm 30. I just don't know where the last 10 years have gone. I suppose we all have a bit of the big kid in us ... maybe I just don't want to grow old. Canterbury said that if I was playing well, they would consider me for selection. They wanted to pick a team to win the trophy. If I help people forget about age and keep doing what they enjoy, that might be nice.

- NZ Herald

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