The end of the road?
21 May 2006
By: Richard Edmunds
Chris Harris has been a dedicated, loyal and reliable servant to New Zealand cricket and a crowd favourite for a decade and a half, but now it seems the international career of the Canterbury all-rounder may be over. It seems a shame that a player who has been such an asset to the national side for so long should go out in such an ignominious manner and not on his own terms, but a number of unfortunate injuries and a run of remarkable form would probably be required in an enormous patch of good fortune for the veteran to make a return in the black shirt.
Although an underachiever in his 23 tests, Harris has had a remarkable career at the top level, one which has included a New Zealand-record 250 appearances in the coloured clothing of one-day international cricket. He has done almost miraculous deeds with bat, ball and particularly in the field, where at his prime he was bracketed in the top 3 in the world with the likes of Jonty Rhodes and Ricky Ponting.
But now, after a long-term injury suffered in his last ODI appearance against Australia in Sydney, the 36-year old finds himself behind a long line of New Zealand all-rounders capable of performing a similar sort of role to the one he has so consistently played since 1992. He is now behind Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, Andre Adams, Daniel Vettori and the improving James Franklin, and the announcement of the central contracts for the next season on the first of June could well spell the end of the career that Harris had been hoping would last until the 2007 World Cup, which of course falls within the contract period.
However, he has been out of the team seemingly never to return before. One notable instance was when he returned to the side to face South Africa after being excluded for no reason other than his poor form, and celebrated his return with a match-winning 55 and the best catch of the New Zealand home summer. So it would be unwise to completely rule him out.
But if this is the end, 'Harry' has given New Zealand supporters an enormous amount of fond memories, whether they are of his acrobatics at cover point, his brilliantly paced innings with the bat (particularly his unforgettable 130 against Australia in the 1995 World Cup), his remarkable ability to find the boundary in the dying stages of an innings, or his seemingly unthreatening but relentlessly accurate medium-pacers, which saw him be the first New Zealander to reach 200 wickets in limited overs internationals. He was described as the 'king of caught-and-bowleds', taking such a ridiculous number of wickets in that manner that Adam Parore's "catch it Harry!" became a national catch-phrase and one that was sure to be mentioned at least once in almost every Saturday morning school cricket match.
And if it does prove to be his last one-day international, he went out in the best possible way. Having earlier in the day suffered a shoulder injury in the field that kept him out of action for the remainder of the season, Harris walked out to bat in Sydney in December 2004 with New Zealand requiring 26 runs to win. He only managed four runs in visible pain before the match came to an end, but it was a display that won him respect from all who saw it. It summed up the type of cricketer he was, always putting absolutely everything he had into every game and putting the team's interests first.
Although it is great to see so many talented all-rounders in the New Zealand side at the moment, deep down we hope we haven't seen the last of Harry.