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Pop CultureApril 6, 2018

Chris Harris on Dancing With the Stars is the greatest thing to ever happen to me


Look at him. Just look at him. This is amazing.

Former New Zealand cricket player Chris Zinzan Harris is going to be on Dancing With the Stars. To me, an avowed fan of both the legendary all-rounder and the harmlessly stupid celebrity dancing show, this could just about be the greatest thing that has ever happened.

The best thing is: I called it. In an otherwise worthless piece of speculation published on this website on February 17th, I shrewdly noted that “no cricketer has ever crossed the dancefloor. This could be the year that changes.” I knew it would be Harry.

At the time he was taking part in a Caltex promotion called ‘Win the Ultimate Runner’, where by simply buying $40 or more of petrol you could go in the draw to literally win Chris Harris. For “a maximum of four hours,” the terms and conditions stated, he would act as your servant at a One Day International cricket game; you would be able to ask him to go and fetch you “up to $100 NZD” worth of snacks while you sat and watched his former team in action.

No other New Zealand cricketer past or present would willingly endure this kind of indignity. It is is the exact kind of attitude required of a celebrity for them to go on Dancing With the Stars.

Chris Harris has always been a maverick. His autobiography, Harry: The Chris Harris Story, includes a stunning testimonial from Daniel Vettori, recalling the first time the pair met. “We were rooming together for my first test in Wellington in 1997,” Vettori remembers. “He stormed into the room and said: ‘P-A-R-T-Y. Why? Because I have to. G’day, I’m Chris Harris.’”

Of all the passages in all the books I have read, this is the one I think of most often.

My affection for Chris Harris runs much deeper than that one anecdote, of course. He is also responsible for my first ever experience of sheer, out-of-body sports joy.

It’s the first game of the 1992 Benson & Hedges World Cup. Australia are 6 for 199, chasing New Zealand’s first innings total of 248. I am six years old, but I am aware of the match situation – this is close, it’s going down to the wire. Gavin Larsen hobbles in to bowl and Ian Healy nudges the ball into the on side. The call is two. Chris Harris swoops in from the outfield, and off-balance, with just one stump to aim for, from about 40 metres out – though it seems more like 100 – he hits the stumps at the bowler’s end. David Boon, the danger man, is run out.

God, Chris Harris was so cool. He had everything you could ever want from a sporting hero. He was New Zealand’s original freaky fielder, diving around in the gully taking blinders and easily saving as many runs as he scored. His batting style was idiosyncratic, full of weird superstitious tics, but he always seemed to step up when the top order inevitably failed. His bowling – such an awesome shambles of an action – seemed to hypnotise batsmen; he was the king of caught and bowleds, and his economy rate was almost without peer.

Amazing to think that he did all of this while rapidly going bald, stoically resisting the advances of Advanced Hair Studio. This is the kind of character international cricket is sorely lacking these days. Can you even imagine a bald man being selected for the Blackcaps in 2018? It would never happen.

Cricket’s loss is Dancing With the Stars’ gain. Chris Harris is a perfect fit for a show that requires participants to take it incredibly seriously, but also not take it seriously at all. To willingly make a fool of themselves, but trust that at the end of it all – barring major calamity – their efforts will earn them newfound respect.

In my 25 years of Chris Harris fandom I have seen no evidence to suggest he is any good at dancing, or that he knows about anything other than cricket. In the promo video released today he wears a white disco suit and does a dance that appears to fuse Riverdance with MC Hammer shit. He looks like an absolute goose.

It couldn’t be more perfect.

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