James Harris's column: Settling in at Lord's and learning new songs

 

In the first of a regular series of columns for BBC Wales Sport, Swansea-born cricketer James Harris gives an insight into his first weeks at Middlesex and his aspirations for England honours.

I always had this vision of walking into a club, sitting down with the guys in charge and leaving with a strong sense of knowing that was the place for me.

That's exactly what happened when I strolled into Lord's on a beautiful, cloudless day last September as I contemplated my next step after making the tough decision to leave Glamorgan.

Looking around the ground, the venerable 'home of cricket', and listening to Angus Fraser and Richard Johnston explain their vision for Middlesex over the next few years, I was sold.

I had presumed there would be some interest once I decided to end my long association with Glamorgan - the county that gave me my first-class debut as a 16-year-old in 2007 - but the reaction was incredible to be honest. It was a hugely flattering time.

James Harris

  • Born 16 May 1990, Morriston, Swansea
  • In 2007 became youngest bowler to take a Championship wicket for Glamorgan as, on his first-class debut, he struck against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge aged 16 years and 351 days
  • He is a capable lower order batsman, and has a Championship best of 87 not out

If I was going to leave, it would be to play Division One cricket that would improve my hopes of international honours - that was the key reason.

Between myself and some of the guys at the Professional Cricketers' Association, Jason Ratcliffe in particular, we went to the nine Division One clubs at that time and the three most likely to get promoted. All 12 clubs basically came back and said they were interested and would like to have a chat.

A lot of them put forward a really good case for me to play and what they do to help further my career. That made my choice so much harder. I was seriously torn. The biggest worry was making the right choice, but thankfully, a couple of months on, I'm really happy I chose Middlesex.

Things haven't gone exactly how I would have liked in terms of my personal performances. I picked up a hamstring injury in the first Championship game at Notts. It was a typical case of over-eagerness on my part on a cold day in April.

That kept me out for three or four weeks, which was hugely annoying because I was desperate to prove my worth. I'm back in action now and looking to make an impact.

I was expecting some kind of initiation when I first went into the Middlesex changing room, but I've got away with it quite lightly so far. There's a team song that I'm still getting my head around.

Harris with Middlesex team-mate and England bowler Steve Finn

Harris with Middlesex team-mate and England bowler Steve Finn

There are no hard copies, apparently, of the lyrics. It constantly changes anyway, so that's making my task trickier. It's sung every time we win, so thankfully I've already heard it a few times already.

It's a bit early to form a definite opinion, but I don't believe there is a huge difference in standard between the first and second divisions.

I have noticed a slight difference perspective on not giving points away cheaply. There's only three extra points available for drawing rather than losing, but the difference between winning and drawing is 13 points. You don't want to allow teams to rack up those sort of points.

That was the case against Durham in our last match. We didn't play our best but we managed to hang on for a draw, and that was so important.

Away from the field, it's been an easy transition moving to London. I've always been drawn to the city. The drawback is I'm a three or four-hour drive away from my friends and family in Pontarddulais near Swansea, but long journeys are a fact of life of being a County cricketer.

As I said, the motivation for leaving Glamorgan was to join a club that could fine tune my game for international cricket and I feel I'm making steady progress on that front.

I managed to go away with the England One-day and Twenty20 squad to New Zealand over the winter, which was fantastic. I would have loved to have played but wasn't given the chance. And then, having made the provisional squad, I didn't make the final cut for the ICC Champions Trophy.

But being a part of the performance squad puts me in a great position to be noticed and to benefit from everything England has to offer. I had 15 minutes with Test coach Andy Flower and limited-overs coach Ashley Giles recently where I was able to discuss where I stood in terms of my international aspirations and which areas I needed to improve.

Everything I'm going to do over the next 10 years is geared towards getting one cap for England. Once I get that first cap, the aim then would be to win as many as I can and I feel playing for Middlesex has given me the best chance to break through into the England set-up.

I want to be challenging for major trophies, involved in pressure situations and feeling that pressure to perform. I want to make the best of what I've got. I'm thankful I've been given the gift to be talented in this game, but I've worked seriously hard to try to make it happen.

ICC Champions Trophy games in Cardiff

  • 6 June: India v South Africa
  • 9 June: Sri Lanka v New Zealand
  • 14 June: West Indies v South Africa
  • 16 June: England v New Zealand
  • 20 June: Semi-final

My biggest problem at the moment is the strength of England's bowling attack; it's arguably the strongest it's ever been. Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steve Finn are leading the way, and waiting below them you've got Graham Onions, Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett. That's a strong core group.

Just under that you've got hopefully myself, Jade Dernbach, Chris Woakes, Chris Wright and Tobias Roland-Jones. I could reel off many other names so there's an incredible amount of competition.

That's what's pushing the guys in the England team to get better, and we're striving to catch them. England's bowling resources are as strong as any team, it's a really healthy position to be in.

England's best, and the cream of world cricket, will be on show in the Champions Trophy in June - and it's huge coup for Cardiff to be chosen as one of only three host cities.

There will be some excellent games of cricket and hopefully Glamorgan will do well out of it by selling a lot of tickets. It's a great opportunity for the people of Cardiff and Wales to see world-class talent. I can't think of many better ways to inspire kids to take up the sport.

My focus is obviously firmly on Middlesex, but I'll always keep an eye out for Glamorgan's results. I made friends for life there and will always stay in touch.

I've heard some high praise from the guys for Michael Hogan. He's a fantastic bowler, by all accounts, and has made an immediate impact since joining at the start of the season. He was supposed to join during the middle part of last season but it wasn't to be, which was a shame.

I was watching from the stands at Lord's when Glamorgan beat us in the YB40 match a few weeks ago, when Marcus North scored a magnificent 137. I'm sure they'll have a successful season.

But it's time for me to knuckle down here and get some wickets on the board for Middlesex. I'm confident I've made the right choice to come here; now it's up to me to prove to Middlesex they were right to give me the chance.

James Harris was talking to BBC Sport's Dewi Hughes