Ryan Harris Australia's first pick, not Johnson

BEN HORNE
Last updated 03:51 22/05/2014

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Mitchell Johnson blazed through England and South Africa almost single handedly, but the speed demon still isn't the first-picked in Michael Clarke's Test side.

The skipper says Johnson's pace partner Ryan Harris is in fact the most essential player for Australia on the road towards the next Ashes series.

Clarke is putting faith in Cricket Australia's medical team to put the 34-year-old workhorse back together again after a knee reconstruction and have him on deck again in time for the summer.

Harris has ruled himself out of travelling to the United Arab Emirates to take on Pakistan in October, but is confident he's on track to face India in the home summer and put himself in the frame for next year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Left-armer Johnson ravaged England with 37 wickets at 13.97 during the Ashes last summer, before heading to South Africa and taking 22 at 17.36 to help pilot Australia to No.1 on the Test rankings.

But Clarke says the leadership and outstanding consistency of Harris (22.56 from 24 Tests), still makes the veteran Australia's most-essential asset.

Despite numerous injury setbacks throughout his career, Harris has continued to excel at international level and, according to Clarke, he's inspired Australia's resurgence as a Test force.

"He's the first selected player in the team, there's no doubt about it," Clarke said on Wednesday.

"He's a fighter, he's got a heart of gold, he's a very important member of our team and not just for his bowling.

"He's a leader around the group, he's a senior player and he loves representing Australia.

"I think he's a great example as an ambassador for our sport ... and he's still got that fight in him to play for a lot longer yet.

"Hopefully the surgeons, the doctors, the physios can keep him on the park. If I have anything to do with voicing my opinion on selection, then Ryano will be at the top every single time."

Harris says the six-month recovery plan is going steadily, and he's earmarked February's World Cup as a major career goal, before hoping to head back to England for the Ashes defence in the winter.

"I've been wanting to play one-day cricket for a long time but I guess playing Test cricket, they've pigeonholed me a little bit," Harris said.

"It's going to be tough for me to get back into that side, but it's going to be great fun. I've been part of a T20 World Cup - I want to play and win a 50-over World Cup before I retire."

Australia next head to Zimbabwe in August to take on the hosts and South Africa in a triangular one-day series.

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- AAP

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