Centre-of-attention Ryan Harris believes Queensland stalwart Chris Hartley’s experience and ultra-consistency should solve Australia’s wicketkeeping conundrum.
Most eyes will be on fit-again Harris when he makes his first-class return at the Gabba on Sunday, but the most influential ones will also have their sights squarely on Hartley and NSW rival Peter Nevill.
Brad Haddin’s shoulder injury has the Test vice-captain in serious doubt for the start of the summer and given hope to a handful of glovemen around the country.
While Matthew Wade is deputising for Haddin in the Australian one-day side, Blues skipper Nevill and Bulls stalwart Hartley are also seen as leading contenders as they go head to head in Sheffield Shield combat.
National selector Trevor Hohns will take special interest in both as a potential stop-gap, on top of ensuring Harris makes good strides to proving form and fitness for the start of the four-Test series against India from December 4 in Brisbane.
While he hoped Haddin recovered for the first Test, Harris felt Hartley – who has ploughed away in Shield cricket for 12 seasons and 102 matches – was a natural choice as replacement.
“If we talk about performances that warrant selection, Harts has got to be up there,” Harris told AAP.
“He hasn’t just done it for one year and then had two years off – he’s been a consistent performer.”
Hartley, regarded as the best pure gloveman in the country and endorsed by Test great Ian Healy, has missed out in the past to the likes of Haddin, Wade and Tim Paine on the strength of their batting.
Haddin (42) and Wade (40.94) both average above 40 with the bat but Hartley’s record of 32.24, with half his matches played on the seam-friendly Gabba, also stacks up well.
“He could walk into any situation,” Harris, 35, said. “He’s done it any number of times for Queensland when we’ve been in trouble and played his game and batted us out of trouble.
“You want experienced guys going into the Test side and he fits that mould easily.”
As well as Harris, who underwent knee surgery in March after bowling Australia to victory in South Africa, Queensland have been boosted by the returns of Ben Cutting, Nathan Reardon and Cameron Boyce.
The Blues are missing Mitchell Starc (groin) and Josh Hazlewood (ODI duty) but still take in a quality bowling attack spearheaded by Doug Bollinger.
Queensland: James Hopes (capt), Cameron Boyce, Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Luke Feldman, Peter Forrest, Peter George, Ryan Harris, Chris Hartley, Marnus Labuschagne, Greg Moller, Nathan Reardon (12th man to be named).
NSW: Peter Nevill (capt), Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Ryan Carters, Scott Henry, Josh Lalor, Nick Larkin, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, Stephen O’Keefe, Kurtis Patterson, Gurinder Sandhu (12th man to be named)