Titan Harris keen for a go at India today
By MICHAEL OWEN-SMITH and sapa
Titans left-arm spinner Paul Harris says he is not concerned about who is or is not included in the Indian team for the third Test which begins at Newlands today.
"I'm not worried about what they're going to do - I'm worried about what I'm going to do," said Harris, who is widely expected to be included in the team for the Test which will decide whether South Africa or India win the series.
Harris was called up into the squad after the retirement of veteran spinner Nicky Boje.
"I'll approach it the way I do when I play for the Titans," said Harris. "I have a different role in the two innings. In the first I have to keep it tight and not let them get too many runs, and in the second, I wait for the batsmen to make mistakes and then I take wickets."
The lanky blond, who looks more like a surfer than a cricketer, said it would be a dream come true for him if he were selected to make his debut for South Africa at Newlands.
Nine months ago, Australia's Stuart Clark was the last cricketer to make his Test debut at Newlands and he went on to be one of the biggest success stories of 2006. Pundits in Australia are already talking of him as a ready-made replacement for the about-to-retire Glenn McGrath.
There should thus be no lack of inspiration or motivation for Harris when he dons the green and gold cap of the Proteas for the first time at Newlands today.
With Boje having retired and Paul Adams still some way off the mark the moment is clearly there for Harris to seize as he will surely be given a run as well through the next home series against Pakistan that includes Tests at both Newlands and St George's Park where spinners normally have a role to play.
It will certainly be a happy homecoming for the 28-year-old, who is attached to the Titans, but learned his cricket in the Western Cape (at Fish Hoek High School) and was first spotted as a teenager by Duncan Fletcher, who was then the senior provincial coach.
"It is a dream come true for me. I was brought up in Cape Town and there are no words to describe it - none at all - that in 10 years I have now gone full circle and come back here."
He was a match-winner for Western Province B for years as his progress was blocked by Adams and Claude Henderson and this eventually prompted his move up north.
Success didn't come immediately for him but the turning point came when Richard Pybus, a former Pakistan coach, took charge of his career at the Titans at the start of last season. He responded by taking 50 wickets at first-class level, a number that was bettered only by quickie Dale Steyn with 69.
"Richard has been my mentor. He is a spin bowling genius coach for me. He turned my career around. He changed me from a left-arm roller to a spin bowler."
What he will be over the course of the next five days is something of an unknown factor.
One thing he made absolutely clear was his passion to play for the country of his upbringing (he was actually born in Zimbabwe) which required him to turn down the lure of British pounds offered by a Kolpak contract.
"I made it clear to Warwickshire from the start that I wasn't signing for good. They wanted me to sign a longer-term contract and I didn't do it because I wanted to play for South Africa and I believe I am the man for the job.
"It is a lot of money to give up, but if somebody asked me to pay R2-million to play a game for my country, I would say, yes".
Harris clearly also brings a lot of common sense and humility as he made clear by prefacing most of his remarks by an "if I am selected".
"It will be a challenge playing against India who are good players of spin. I have got a job to do. Hopefully I will get a bit of spin and help win the game for my country. Otherwise I will do what I have been doing for the Titans. I have been keeping it pretty tight in the first innings and waiting for the batsmen to make mistakes. That is the game plan I will take into the Test."