First-class debuts don’t get much better.
Selected to debut against Tasmania on February 3, 19-year-old Sam Harper became Victoria’s youngest Sheffield Shield keeper and claimed the most dismissals (9) by a debutant, one of which was a stunning one-handed catch in front of first slip.
“It was definitely the best moment of my life so far,” Harper said.
“Wicket keeping to Peter Siddle and James Pattinson on the MCG, a ground where I’ve always wanted to play, was awesome.
“I was playing with some of my heroes. Standing next to me in slip was Cameron White; I’ve had his picture on my wall.”
The youngster was told he was in the squad of 12 about a week before the match, and then coach David Saker delivered the good news that he was in the starting XI four days out from the match.
“That was a really interesting few days leading up to the game. Obviously I was super excited but also super nervous heading in,” he said.
“The first morning of the day it rained and we were sitting in the rooms and I just wanted to get out and get the game started. However, once we got out there I couldn’t stop enjoying it because I was living out a childhood dream.”
Harper has been surrounded by cricket from a young age. His father Bryan coached St Kilda, Melbourne and the Australian women’s team, while his uncle Laurie Harper played 38 Sheffield Shield matches for Victoria as a middle order batsman.
“My Dad has been the main influence on my cricket career. Ever since I was three or four years old he’s the one who’s been throwing balls at me.”
“My uncle Laurie was a great one to talk to because he’d actually been out in the environments that I’m going to be facing. He’s been out on the ‘G playing a Shield game and made his debut, so being able to talk through that sort of stuff with him has been awesome.”
Harper is spending part of his winter honing his craft at Cricket Australia’s Centre of Excellence in Brisbane. While there he hopes to have a session with one of his idols, former Test ‘keeper Brad Haddin.
“Whenever Brad Haddin and Adam Gilchrist were wicket keeping, I’d look at the little techniques they were doing and try implement them in my game.
“Seeing guys like Gilchrist and Haddin and the careers they’ve had as wicket keeper-batsman, that’s what I want in the future and that’s what I’m striving towards.
“Ever since I could walk, cricket has been my passion so I’ve just been driven to be the best wicket keeper-batsman I can be at whatever level that is and making the most of every single opportunity I get. My dream is to get a baggy green one day and play for Australia.”
Harper’s background includes representation in most Victorian under-age teams since his early teens. He played sub district cricket at Caulfield, alongside his father, before transferring to Melbourne two years ago. He has already represented Australia Under 19 and was a part of the BBL in 2015-16 as a rookie.
Story by: Simon Draycott