Cricket World Cup: The nobody about to be a somebody

Iain Fletcher says Chris Harris could be the big surprise of the Cup
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The Independent Online
"HE IS a complete all- rounder. I think I've heard the coach say he's the first name on the sheet." Roger Twose was talking about one of his New Zealand team-mates. But which one?

"With the bat he is second only to Michael Bevan in the world in their positions," Twose added, "and in the field I truly believe he is up there with Jonty Rhodes and Ricky Ponting." Still struggling? Can you put one and Twose together?

"And since he's taken the pace off the ball when he bowls, he has been our most consistent performer. In the last 50 or 60 matches I would be surprised if he's gone for more than four an over. He is so important to us and without doubt one of the most selfless cricketers around. Quite simply, his influence is huge for us." High praise indeed.

Twose was referring to Chris Harris. Look out for him during this World Cup - he might make quite an impression. Harris is the jack-in-the- box who drives New Zealand relentlessly in the field. The wily trickster who bowls immediately after the first frenetic 15 overs, and the whirling dervish who tries to scamper a run off every ball when he is batting - he plays as if he is convinced that even if you pat it back to the bowler, you might, if you are really quick, make two.

"I know I'm a bit hyperactive," explained the 29-year-old last week as New Zealand prepared for their first Group B outing, against Bangladesh at Chelmsford tomorrow, "but if you want to, you can be involved in every ball in the game. I love the hectic nature of the one-day game, so I want to be involved every ball, whether it is encouraging the bowlers or running 40 yards to help back-up a throw."

In the 127 one-day internationals Harris has played so far he has definitely been involved. He has scored over 2,000 runs at an average of over 30. This is where he compares with Bevan - he has been undefeated on no fewer than 52 occasions as he has either guided his team to victory or shepherded the tail. With the ball he has taken 121 wickets, but it is his economy rate that stands out at 4.25 runs per over. Add in his athletic fielding and one can see why he is so highly rated by his team- mates.

But when asked about his importance to the team, Harris mentions the vital qualities of nearly every other member of the squad and how good they are. The modesty is genuine, and given the chance he would have extolled the virtues of the bagman and coach driver before considering his own achievements or influence.

The absence of ego is refreshing but don't mistake it for weakness. Harris is seriously competitive, but his benchmark for judging performances is not how many runs or wickets he scores but whether the team win or not.

He is also brutally honest with himself: "I've only played 17 Tests because my bowling isn't up to it. In one-day cricket I am a genuine all- rounder but in Tests I am a batter who bowls a little and that makes it hard for me."

Neither a shirker nor a whinger, Harris could easily be a star this month, and if he performs New Zealand will be a force. "I think we can have a good tournament," he said. "We are here to win, but unlike some of the other countries we need at least three players to perform.

"We are a good team but we don't have a Tendulkar or De Silva who can win games on their own, although not having them can actually be an advantage. Sometimes teams with an exceptional player tend to lose their edge because they rely on one superstar and if he gets out it gives the opposition a boost."

New Zealand may be short of a superstar but in players such as Chris Cairns, Dion Nash, Nathan Astle and, of course, Harris they have the nucleus of a talented squad, and they have an excellent camaraderie.

" Getting a good start is going to be so important," Harris said, "because you are going to want to get in the Super Six carrying points over the other teams. So far we've shown good form against the counties and are feeling good.

"Let's face it, we are all lucky to have the opportunity to do our art or sport on the biggest stage possible, in front of the world. I love it completely. I've done it before in previous World Cups, but I still love the buzz and I can't wait for the cricket to start."