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When a doctor comes calling with Redbacks

Not being able to cement a place in the South Australia first-class side when he was young helped Daniel Harris qualify as a doctor. Nikhilesh Bhattacharya reports.

india Updated: Sep 18, 2011 23:49 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times

Not being able to cement a place in the South Australia first-class side when he was young helped Daniel Harris qualify as a doctor.

It also helped that at the turn of the century, when Harris made his debut, the game did not ask of its players the kind of 24x7 devotion it does now. For someone trying to cut his teeth in domestic cricket, it was possible, if not necessary, to have a job.

"When I started in the late 90s, we were still very much semi-professionals. In the pre-season, we would train in the morning and then in the after hours. Contracts, particularly for lower-end players, weren't enough to make good jobs," Harris told HT on Saturday morning during an open session with South Australia's T20 team, the Redbacks.

"Greg Chappell was our coach and he was very keen on me to keep studying. And I probably wasn't playing my best cricket. So when it came to the season, I was not playing in the four-day games. Then I got dropped for a year or two from the squad and that helped me finish my studies and qualify as a doctor."

Harris graduated from the University of Adelaide, which produced Howard Florey, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir Ernst Boris Chain and Sir Alexander Fleming for his role in developing penicillin. "He's our most famous graduate."

Integral part
The right-handed batsman who bowls a bit of medium-pace has since become an integral player for South Australia in all formats. Now the 31-year-old has to work his shifts and education around his cricket. "I'm still learning and I'm registered, but right now my focus is on cricket," says Harris, who works in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide.

"I'm still quite junior in the medical hierarchy," says Harris, who will take a call later whether to specialise or become a general practitioner.

Harris says it is important for players to balance cricket with life outside cricket. He admits it must be difficult for those playing at the highest level, given the volume of cricket they play.

Misses home
"I can't speak first-hand (not having played for the national team), but I think what the Australians do very well is have outlets - maybe a bit of golfing, family, or charity work."

But Harris, who finds it difficult to leave his two young children behind when he has to go on the Redbacks' infrequent tours, still marvels at how international cricketers can stay away from home for so long. "They must have real devotion to cricket. And very strong families."