Australia head coach Justin Langer has backed Marcus Harris, saying that the team management is confident that Marcus Harris has got what it takes to be a successful Test opener. Langer was also hopeful of Mitchell Starc being fully fit to play in the third Test at the MCG, beginning December 26.
Australia are leading the Ashes 2021-22 by 2-0, following their 275-run victory in the second Test Adelaide. Australia have been the dominant side throughout the series, both with the bat and ball, having given very little chance to England.
However, Marcus Harris's form has been a cause of concern for the hosts. The left-hander has amassed only 38 runs in four innings so far in the series and as a result, his career average has slipped further down to 22.19. With Usman Khawaja in the squad, who has scored 484 runs in five Tests as an opener, Harris' spot in the XI has been debatable.
However, Australia head coach Justin Langer has backed Harris despite of his recent poor returns, saying that he has got what it takes to be a successful Test match opener.
"He'll play in the Test, no worries about that. This is his home ground. He's played a lot at the MCG. He hasn't made the runs he'd like to so far, but he dominates domestic cricket. So he knows that he knows how to play. He's a fantastic bloke around the squad ... And we know he's a very good player,” Langer said.
"For him and for us, we're hoping he plays well and gets a good partnership with Davey Warner in this Boxing Day Test match. We're really confident Marcus has got what it takes to be a successful Australian opening batsman. And what we see in the nets, what we see in domestic cricket all adds up to what is potentially a very good Test career. We're determined to get that right.”
Langer, who himself formed Test cricket's second-most successful opening partnership with Matthew Hayden, emphasized the importance of backing players in the team.
"That's absolutely one of the most important things in life, knowing people have got your back. My experience, when Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Mark Taylor or Allan Border said 'you're in the team', you feel like you feel like Superman. You feel like you're important to the team and Marcus Harris is important to the team,” he stated.
Mitchell Starc, who returned 6/80 across two innings in Adelaide, has rib soreness, but Langer is confident that the left-arm quick will be fit to compete in the third Test.
"Mitch Starc was almost man of the match, last game ... he's an unbelievable athlete, he's incredibly fit. His resilience to just keep coming up over and over and over again is remarkable and his consistency of length, and the way he controlled the tempo of (the) last game) was a credit to him, particularly with Patty and Josh Hazlewood not playing,” he opined.
"He became the leader of the group, he did a fantastic job. So I would be very surprised if he doesn't get up for Boxing Day. At this stage, there is no indication he won't be playing the next Test match.”
Australia have added Scott Boland to their squad strengthening the pace battery. Pat Cummins is set to return, while there is no update on the fitness status of Josh Hazlewood yet. With both Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser having excelled on debut, Langer said that is undecided as of now as to who will play in the third Test.
"[It is] undecided at this stage. Both Michael and Jhye did a great job in the last Test match. We will just wait and see how they pull up. We have got back to back [Tests], it's a tough series - we all know that,” he said.
"Five Test matches pretty much in a row - we will just manage our bowlers as best we can. We will put our fittest and most ready to perform out on the park in Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test match."
The third Test will be played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, beginning December 26.