Chris Harris

'I would have loved to have played international T20'

With his slow medium-pace bowling and exceptional fielding, the former New Zealand allrounder reckons he could have done well in the shortest format

Interview by George Binoy
Aka Lugs

Aka Lugs © AFP

I had two older brothers, so the first three or four years of my life, as soon as I learned to walk, I used to just field in the backyard. They would occasionally let me have a bat and a bowl, but if I batted for too long they'd just give me a bad decision and say that I was out. So I guess that's where my fielding abilities came from.

I should have played more Test cricket. But at the end of the day your destiny is in your own hands. If I'd played more consistently and better, I think I would have got the opportunity to play more Tests.

Once, in the 1990s in Colombo, Sachin Tendulkar was playing us well on a flat wicket. He was dominating me, as he often did. Then I bowled a quicker one which slid down the leg side. He tried to turn it but got a leading edge. It came back and I just dived full stretch and took it in one hand. I actually won an award for it.

I don't think any dressing room is that different to any [other]. They are very similar. Generally the chat is the same, it's talking about cricket. People are talking about how fast a guy bowled, how much it was spinning, how big the six was, and I think that's why cricket's such a great game, because no matter where it happens in the world, to me everything is very similar.

I don't think I've batted better than the 1996 World Cup quarter-final against Australia. But there's times when I've batted under more pressure and helped win New Zealand a game. Batting in Madras in that horrendous heat and humidity was tough. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do, because then I ended up bowling ten overs on the trot as well. But unfortunately, it was to end up on being the losing side.

The world's an oyster for the cricketer now. There are just so many options. In my day you obviously had to play international cricket. I'd like to believe that's still every cricketer's dream, but now there's just so many other options.

I learned very early on in my career not to sledge too much. Purely because I found that when I sledged, it backfired. I remember doing it with Craig Spearman in a first-class game. I bowled a length ball that he left and then he practised the pull shot, and I remember saying to him, "Don't practise it, if you're good enough, play it." And then next ball he hit me out of the ground for six.

I don't remember the exact phone call. I just remember them saying you're in the team to go to Australia [in 1990].

My brothers used to call me Bugs, because I had two very big front teeth. And they thought I looked a bit like Bugs Bunny. But one day I was at a swimming pool and I slipped over and chipped my front tooth. So I had only one big tooth, so they said we can't call you Bugs, so we'll call you Lugs, because your ears are quite big.

My bowling action was accidental. If I had my time again, I think I would have tried to change it earlier.

I was told at a very early age, in under-age teams, that as selectors you get put in a situation where there may be two people with very even batting and bowling skills and they are not sure which way to go. They always go back to who's the best fielder.

I guess for us, being New Zealanders, the team we really wanted to do well against was Australia. Purely because they were our big neighbours, that was always the massive competition, not just in cricket but in all sports. It's something we've always treasured, our wins against Australia.

I would have loved to have played international T20 cricket. When it first came out I thought as a bowler, as a slow bowler, a spin bowler, you think you're probably going to get hurt quite badly. I think now T20 cricket has shown that the spinners have got a massive role to play. From that perspective, I would have had an all-round role.

Martin Crowe was such a batting technician. Just always loved to watch him, especially playing fast bowling. I was fortunate enough to play with him a lot in my career.

I don't think you can focus too much on your successes and failures or concentrate too much on them. Any cricketer is going to have more failures than successes. You're high one day and you're low the next.

"I should have played more Test cricket. But at the end of the day your destiny is in your own hands. If I'd played more consistently and better, I think I would have got the opportunity to play more Tests"

Merv Hughes was quite abusive to me but he's a guy who is very friendly off the field and I got on very well with him. I remember playing a New Zealand President's game against Australia and he bowled me a couple of bouncers that I nicked over slips. He came down and said, "I don't want to get you out now, I just want to kill you."

As any growing boy you want to follow in your father's footsteps, so I always wanted to play cricket for New Zealand.

My 250th ODI was effectively the end of my international career, because I injured my shoulder and had to have three operations to put six pins to re-attach my tendon to my shoulders. It was a very emotional day. I guess in some ways I'm still dealing with it now, because at the time I thought I was always going to come back. I just thought it was a matter of patching my shoulder up - might be out for six months and then I'll be back. I guess coaching is a way of holding on to it a little bit.

I actually turned 21 over in Australia in my debut series. In those days the Australian crowds were pretty big and menacing. I remember getting a lot of abuse. But I remember it fondly. It was a wonderful experience.

I can remember three overseas trips - Sri Lanka twice and once in Pakistan - where bombs exploded in the vicinity of the team hotel. Those experiences showed me how vulnerable you can be. When your time's up, your time's up. There's nothing you can do about it. Even though I don't think we were directly targeted in any of those attacks, if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, there's no discrimination in the blast zone.

I think in some ways my bowling action gave me some of my success, because I bowled off the wrong foot. It meant I didn't have much body momentum and I didn't get a lot of pace on the ball. I guess people tended to play earlier than they should have.

No matter how good a player you are, you spend more time fielding than anything else.

I opened twice. In Wellington, India batted first and got quite a few runs. It had never been discussed before that I was opening, and then at lunchtime Ken Rutherford, who was captain at the time, came to me and said we want you to open the batting. It took me by surprise. I remember facing [Javagal] Srinath and there was a big lbw appeal early on. I remember charging down the wicket a few times and ended up getting 44. I got out caught at cover off [Anil] Kumble, but that innings gave me confidence. I then went to Christchurch and got out for a duck and never opened again.

I like to think I'm a bit of a people person. I'd like to think I'm reasonably friendly, and I'm pretty happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. I'd like to think that most players I played with and against, if I saw now, I'd cross the street and say hi and we'd have a coffee together, or a beer.

If you're not bowling the only way you can be involved is obviously by fielding. I guess I took it upon myself to try and test myself all the time and say, "Look, if I'm in the circle, I'm going to make sure they don't get one to me. Or if I'm on the boundary I'm going to make sure they don't get two. Every chance that comes to me I'm going to try and grab no matter how far away it is." Because I enjoyed it, I try and encourage all cricketers to do it.

I'd always tend to put my front pad on first, and if I'd batted through to lunch or tea, I'd always want the other batsman to cross the rope first. I'd mark my crease six times. And if I tapped my bat out in the middle, I'd have to do that six times as well.

I've played in four World Cups and I think we've been pretty consistent. I guess the saddest thing is never to have won a World Cup. We had the best chance in 1992, just because we had the momentum. If we had knocked out Pakistan, going to Australia and playing in Melbourne, we'd have given ourselves a good chance of winning.

The ICL was a wonderful concept and it was a shame it didn't continue. I loved it. It was a wonderful experience, being involved with a lot of local Indian players, young up-and-coming players, and some other international players from other teams. I guess at the end of the day the BCCI was trying to protect its own tournament. It was tough from New Zealand Cricket's point of view as well. They had to be seen to support the Indian board.

I still live in Christchurch. I was in England at the time of the earthquake and my family was home. I got on the flight the next day and came home. It was horrendous. Everyone was extremely shaken up. I guess in some ways you feel pretty guilty, but it made it an easier decision to move out of Christchurch to start my coaching career [in Zimbabwe]. Although Christchurch has always been my home and a wonderful place to live.

"No matter how good a player you are you spend more time fielding than anything else" © Getty Images

I think the best lesson I can pass on is to try and keep focused and ride a straight line as opposed to riding the wave.

We just had a plan to go out and go hard all the time. I think it sort of clicked against Australia. We said we've got nothing to lose. We're going to take them on. I think after that it flowed and we said this is the way we're always going to play. Always feel as though we've got a chance, whatever it takes, never die wondering.

I was very lucky. There are some people who got injured very early in their career. I felt very fortunate to have represented my country in 250 ODIs. Loved every moment of it. Are there things I'd change in my career? Not too much.

It's always nice to play with your brother. I played a little bit with Ben for Canterbury. He also played for Otago. I was more nervous watching him than when I was playing. [Playing against him] was similar. You're still nervous for him. Obviously you want your team to win, but it's always nice to see your brother do well.

I didn't mind the new ball, because in those days I was bowling a little bit of medium-pace inswingers, so the newer the ball, the more it swung. I think I was a much better bowler when the ball was swinging as well, because it gave me more variations.

Winning the ICC Knockout in 2000 was one of the best triumphs of my career.

The big difference for me from one-day cricket to Test cricket is that in one-day cricket I think I was a genuine allrounder, generally bowled my ten overs and batted in the middle order. In Test cricket I was seen more as a batsman who bowled a bit, so I put a lot more pressure on my batting, and I guess that weighed on me a little bit. That made it more difficult for me to have consistency and longevity in Test cricket.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo





  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 13, 2012, 2:51 GMT

    I can never remember Chris not smiling, and having a very postive outlook in his game. One thing I never understand was there was a change in the way he bowled part way though his career. He used to have an awesome late swing bowl which moved as much in the air, as much as Warne could get off the pitch....and then it seemed to disappear from his arsenal

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 13, 2012, 2:27 GMT

    did a poster of Harry and took it to lancaster park in christchurch. It was Michelangelo's creation of adam with Harrys face over Adam's. That day he played a blinder and the poster was on tv everytime he hit a four. My Mum taped it off the tv. she still has it somewhere on VHS. have to buy a Video recorder one day so i can watch again.

  • POSTED BY Azim on | October 12, 2012, 14:51 GMT

    Chris Harris will be remembered in Pakistan for his run out to Inzmam in 1992 World Cup Semi Final and superb attempts to run out Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram in the same inning; if these two attempts were successful most likely New Zealand would have been the winner of 1992 World Cup Semi Final. These were very memorable moments of the World Cup 1992 and Chris Harris played crucial part in it. Nothing to worry about not getting enough chances, with the limited exposure Chris has entertained us plenty.

  • POSTED BY Mohd on | October 12, 2012, 12:29 GMT

    Wish you all the best for future...lovely ...We liked you very much while playing...you were great on field and we liked every time. I think you hit the 4 on last ball of johnson(ZIM) in ICC trophy...you were two lovely guys (Chris) in team..one was electric in field and another was good with bat...Wishing you all the best....

  • POSTED BY Hasitha on | October 12, 2012, 1:46 GMT

    One of the great players produced by NZ. Good luck with your future Chris...

  • POSTED BY Abdul on | October 11, 2012, 22:21 GMT

    At the moment I am in Palmerston North (New Zealand). I wish I should meet him sometime.

  • POSTED BY Abdul on | October 11, 2012, 22:19 GMT

    One of my favourite players. I always enjoyed his fielding. A great sportsman, I think, there is no record of his bad conduct with the players in the field. Like others, I liked his interview.

  • POSTED BY Brent on | October 11, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    A tight ODI bowler and was NZs batting version of Michael Bevan and fielding version of Jonty Rhodes. Would have loved to see you in some t20i's playing for your country Harry!

  • POSTED BY praveen on | October 11, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    I was fortunate enough to witness Harris play at a stadium. His fielding was electric. He would slide, stop, get up and throw the ball to the keeper all in one action. He had unbelievable quickness. His knock in the '96 semi final was an epic but sadly, his team ended up losing. That was one of the matches whose result I feel bad about even after all these years.

  • POSTED BY Unmesh on | October 11, 2012, 20:33 GMT

    Chris Harris was one of those dibbly-dobbly NZ bowlers who were difficult to get away. In the 90s NZ had many such useful ODI bowlers including Gavin Larsen & Nathan Astle. I am not sure where these kind of bowlers have disappeared. I remember Tendulkar didn't particularly enjoy facing those kind of bowlers. He used to attack fast bowlers and spinners in the 90s, but it didn't seem like he used to enjoy facing bowlers like Chris Harris, Hansie Cronje, Nathan Astle etc.. Chris Harris was particularly hard to hit...his bowling used to put batsman's timing off. There was no correlation between speed of his arm and the speed with which the ball arrived to the batsman! As one of the comments mentioned, you can see a glimpse Chris Harris in Kohli's bowling action. But of course, he is not as good as Chris as a bolwer.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 19:49 GMT

    During his prime mid 90s early 2000s Harris was the first pick of any NZ ODI team, ask any NZ Cricket fan and they'll say the same, ahead of Astle,Cairns, Bond, Fleming etc he was that good in all facets. He's almost up there with Lance Cairns as a Cricketing folklore in this country.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 18:43 GMT

    He would have been a useful T20 player, indeed. In fact, his non-international T20 record includes a batting average of 70 (!), s/r of 120 and bowling economy rate of 6.25. Who else can match that?

  • POSTED BY Azim on | October 11, 2012, 16:28 GMT

    There are many many out there (unknowns), they could have done better than many in there (known). If Chris Harris can contribute to make New Zealand a stronger cricket team that would be sufficient or job well done.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 14:12 GMT

    certainly one of the best all rounders for new zealand. he was a better batsman than what the stats show. his fielding was always amazing. never saw him arguing with the opponents.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 13:44 GMT

    Chris Harris - such a simple bloke and a player with a very big heart.... in cricket there are players who just transcend across borders and are universally loved - Chris was one of them - i still get goose bums when i think about that Chennai match where he scored that magnificent century....

  • POSTED BY dave on | October 11, 2012, 13:38 GMT

    Meanmen - thanks for the laugh - Oram far better than Chris Harris!

    Chris Harris - brilliant fielder, could handle all types of innings (that accounts for the low strike rate as NZ were often in trouble when he came in), mystery bowler and live-wire who was always available and gave his best. Complete opposite of Oram!

  • POSTED BY Jay on | October 11, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    One of my all time favorite players outside of my country! A great fighter, and reading this confirms he is a great person too :-) That quarter final innings against Australia, was great.. I still remember him from that innings, drenching in sweat, but fighting like a gladiator... I am not from NZ, so haven't seen other innings he thinks were better, but that innings was something exceptional.. To me, reflected the greatness of the man..

  • POSTED BY Samar on | October 11, 2012, 10:42 GMT

    A great interview. One of the best and great human being to ever play international cricket. He is a wonderful sportsman .. Miss you .. A fan from the Himalayan country Nepal.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 10:15 GMT

    My favorite NZ player and one of the best all rounder for NZ all time.

  • POSTED BY John on | October 11, 2012, 10:07 GMT

    A remarkable Kiwi player with a big heart. I remember, a couple of years ago, under the captaincy of Shahid Afridi, Pakistani team toured New Zealand. In the last match of the tour, while receiving the OdI winning trophy, Afridi while thanking the Kiwi cricket board, made a special remark about New Zealand that it is Pakistani players favourite place to play cricket because of its beauty and its people. New Zealand Cricketers are definitely the most admired cricketers for their on and off field behaviors and Chris Harris is no exception. A wonderful bloke and a fantastic cricketer. Pakistanis love you Chris :)

  • POSTED BY Sachit on | October 11, 2012, 10:00 GMT

    Chris Harris was one cricketer who did not get much accolades in international Cricket arena but he was great asset for the side. Very economic bowler, awesome fielder, good hard hitting batsman and overall a great team player. He is very correct. Had he been 10 years younger to his current age, he would have been one of the biggest sensations in world of T20 Cricket today.

  • POSTED BY Richard on | October 11, 2012, 8:32 GMT

    Great interview, one of the most likeable players in world cricket throughout the '90s and early 2000s, Chris always made our team stronger in ODIs, maybe not so much in test cricket (he was just one big innings away from being a test regular) but he competed at the highest level and never backed down. Great fielder, tight bowler and classy run collector, and ideal for todays T20. Face it Black Caps, Chris Harris would be selected in all 3 forms of the game without question these days, and maybe even offered the Captaincy. So sad that his career ended just as our team lost huge amounts of talent. Didn't know he was coaching, but if he can find success at this level then in 5-10 years he could be very useful for New Zealand. And as for the ICL, thanks BCCI for actively participating in the downfall of NZ cricket by acting so insensitively to those kiwis who signed to a perfectly legal competition. The BCCI and Justin Vaughans backstab destroyed the end of Shane Bonds career. Grrr.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 8:26 GMT

    Thanks George for this interview that made me relive those moments when Harry was in the international arena. His words, "I think the best lesson I can pass on is to try and keep focused and ride a straight line as opposed to riding the wave." speak a great deal of him as a person. A good cricketer and a great man. I remember him for his that 'annoying' sort of bowling. In Geoffrey Boycott's words he pretended to be doing everything with his bowling but actually did nothing and Geoffrey always wanted the batsmen to hit him and most of the time Harry succeeded but the day Sanath Jayasuria took him on Geoffrey and probably his mom too could not help laughing. Well, these were a few distorted memories and thats it......

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 8:14 GMT

    styris and harris made nz one of the mosst allround team of that time

  • POSTED BY Nick on | October 11, 2012, 7:52 GMT

    Great career and the longest hitter in the NZ team during his time. It is easy to knock his low strike rate but how often did he get NZ to 220 when 150 or less looked likely. Also won many a game with an impossible run out or a tight spell. Flemings innings against SA in 2003 is NZs best world cup innings, Harris owns the 2nd best world cup innings for NZ. Chris Harris probably holds the world record for the youngest with a comb-over. LEGEND!

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 6:39 GMT

    His bowling economy rate and first class batting average are amazing, I would definitely have him in my twenty20 team. He is a live wire. Thanks for your time that you gave to the game and the amazing moments to us fans.

  • POSTED BY Navi on | October 11, 2012, 6:39 GMT

    awesome stuff thank u fo doin this interview. Would love to read more interviews like this from players like Neil Johnson, Heath Streak, Dirk Nanny, Adam Gillchrist etc

  • POSTED BY Vinod on | October 11, 2012, 6:10 GMT

    he used to behave like they were always winning! a bit of a crowd puller who made sure the spectators enjoyed the moments just as he had, on the field....exceptional cricketers!

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 5:46 GMT

    He is great human being i remeber him he is 1 frame of my early age cricket memory i grow up to watch such guys from around the world i was 10-12 years boy i got always excited to watch live match if saeed anwar,gary kirsten,lara,ganguly bating and such newzeland team was seem to have eauly talented like aus,eng that time but sorrw is they acheived very less

  • POSTED BY Ramakrishnan on | October 11, 2012, 5:40 GMT

    Thanks Chris Harris for entertaining the crowds during your playing days.. As you rightly said, ICL should have continued, but the BCCI and the Boards nodding their acceptance to them, forced them to shut and allow IPL to prosper to such a level that Tests are being pushed to the background.

  • POSTED BY jared on | October 11, 2012, 5:17 GMT

    LEGEND!!!! Probably my favorite nz cricketer of all time, he never gave up and won games for NZ that we should never of won because of his brilliance. Glad to hear he is coaching and i hope he gets the under 19's job one day, he would be one guy who could get the best out of young players natural talents without trying to turn them into technically correct clones, bit more variety in the black caps would be great a couple of harris like players would do us the world of good right now

  • POSTED BY Kavin on | October 11, 2012, 4:56 GMT

    You can still watch Harris bowl by seeing Kohli bowl...

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 4:49 GMT

    Valid point on the ICL! It screwed up the careers of a lot of amazing kiwi talent including the one Shane Bond!

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | October 11, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    One of the best fielder in the world nd the best in his own bowling.

  • POSTED BY Ravi on | October 11, 2012, 4:09 GMT

    Harris' ODI strike rate, which stands at 66.5, makes for a poor reading. He was one of the most over-rated players to come from New Zealand.. The current crop are far far better, which includes the likes of Oram, Nathan McCullum..

  • POSTED BY Mohamed on | October 11, 2012, 3:42 GMT

    another good all rounder nz ever produced!!

  • POSTED BY India on | October 11, 2012, 3:22 GMT

    Still remember this guy from all the battles that India fought with New Zealand in the 90s. Thank you for your service to the game! It is people like Chris Harris that makes cricket such a pleasure to watch!