Marcus Harris wants former Test skipper Tim Paine to feature in the upcoming Ashes series against England, the left-handed opener said on Wednesday (November 24). Paine, last week, resigned as Test captain after being caught in a sexting scandal, as a result of which his place in the side is now under threat due to him not having the greatest of records as a batter in the longest format of the game.
Harris said the news came as a shock to the playing group who only learned about it 30 minutes before the official announcement. But he backed Paine to come through the scandal and said he deserved to play in the opening Test at Brisbane on December 8 on his wicketkeeping abilities alone.
"Yes, absolutely," Harris said when asked if he should be in the starting eleven. "He's done a really good in the last few years under tough circumstances, and I think you can still probably argue that he's the best gloveman in the country.
"I know he's got the support of all the players," he added, with most of them personally contacting Paine in the wake of the scandal. Obviously Painey is a very popular member of the group, and he was as skipper as well. So we're looking forward to him getting up here in the next week or so and getting on with cricket."
The 36-year-old Paine has made it clear he still wants to play for Australia with selectors needing to decide whether to cut him loose and start afresh or show loyalty.
Harris, who is set to open the innings with David Warner, wouldn't be drawn on who should be the next captain, with Pat Cummins and Steve Smith seen as the frontrunners. A five-person panel will make the decision, but it reportedly won't include coach Justin Langer who has been told to focus on preparing the team.
Instead the job will fall to selectors George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide, Cricket Australia board member Mel Jones, chief executive Nick Hockley and chairman Richard Freudenstein.
The diminutive Harris is in the squad after another concussion injury to Will Pucovski and is determined to grab the opportunity after a poor 2019 Ashes campaign. He averaged just 9.66 from his three Tests in England, but has revamped his technique, leading to a productive season with Leicestershire.
"In England the length that they can bowl is a bit different to Australia. They can probably bowl a little bit shorter and still hit the top of the stumps in England, which obviously brings in lbw and bowleds. That's what the challenge was over there and the Dukes ball that summer was moving around a lot.
"They're going to have to bowl a different length in Australia. The wickets you would say are probably more batter-friendly in Australia, so it can sometimes be – I wouldn't say easier – but better to line them up, especially to the left-handers around the wicket.
"It's still going to be a challenge for us because at the Gabba the ball moves a fair bit and bounces a lot so but I think they're probably going to have to bowl a bit fuller. There are things that I've probably been working on ever since that Ashes series trying to combat it."
Harris also admitted that the selection panel's backing has eased the pressure. "I had a good chat with (selection chief George Bailey) and it was just good to have some clear communication with a selector about what I was doing, what was in their minds and what was in their thinking for me.
"I think it's good for your confidence as a player to know where you stand and having the backing of (selectors) is really good. That was really good to have that from Bails. It puts your mind at ease a little bit. Your mind can wander coming into a big series like the Ashes with the amount of attention that's brought to it. So to not have to worry about that for probably a month leading into the first game is pretty good."
(With inputs from AFP)