Mackenzie Harvey: From watching uncle Ian at the MCG to leading Australia at the Under-19 World Cup

'The main thing we talk about is that we will play hard, but also respect everyone - especially umpires and opposition' - Mackenzie Harvey ICC via Getty

At the turn of the new century, the VB series was one of the most iconic ODI tournaments. Cricket Australia would invite two other teams to play the national side and in 2004, it was India and Zimbabwe who made the trip Down Under. Australia thumped India in the finals to win the competition, but Mackenzie Harvey doesn't remember that.

All he remembers is wearing his size two Australia jersey, as a four-year-old, at the MCG. He was only there to support one person: his uncle Ian, a man who would go on to shape his aspirations in the years to come. Fast forward 15 years, and Harvey is sitting in the backdrop of the biggest hand-dug mine in the world - Kimberley's Big Hole - speaking to ESPNcricinfo as Australia's U-19 captain.

Officially named captain just days before the tournament, Harvey has had to swiftly wrap his head around the top job in the country's youth cricket circuit, but lessons from his past have shaped his thinking process.

"That's sort of the one thing that got me right into cricket - to try to be like my uncle Ian," Harvey says "That attractive Australian one-day and T20 mindset which he developed as a player. Since he moved to England, we've not been in touch so often, but nonetheless he's one of the biggest influences I've had.

"It started off learning from him, and as I got older, I started watching Michael Hussey - one of my all-time favourite cricketers, I used to watch his highlights all the time. But definitely, seeing Ian helped me start off. We talk about cricket because it's something we both relate to. But it's not only about cricket, we discuss every aspect of my life."

A left-handed batsman, Harvey joined Melbourne's Elsternwick Cricket Club at the tender age of five. At eight, he was a regular in the U-12s. At 10, he was playing in the fourth XI. And when he made his senior debut for the club at 12, he was playing alongside some team-mates who were three times his age. By 17, he had made his Victoria debut.

But his first day in the limelight was in January 2018, when he made the Prime Minister's XI against England. Against the likes of Liam Plunkett, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood, the schoolboy smacked a 39-ball half-century in his first top-flight senior game. Since then, the buzz around him has grown ten-fold.

"The innings' impact sunk in when I got back, sat down and took a deep breath," Harvey says. "Realised that the selectors see me as a bloke who can play. Just thought it was a tremendous honour to play against blokes who were dominating world cricket for a few years."

A BBL contract didn't take long to come. The Melbourne Renegades called him up as a replacement player, and in his debut season, he played 13 games, scoring 162 runs from the middle order, playing a significant role in winning the BBL title.

Harvey says his time at the Renegades has helped him mature. The presence of Aaron Finch in the set-up has helped him develop into a smarter captain and he hopes to implement what he learnt there in South Africa over the next few weeks.

"Soon after that England game, Andrew Lynch, the selector, called me saying I'll be Finch's replacement, might even get a game," Harvey says. "I think for me personally, BBL has given me that extra step to differentiate myself from a couple of guys. Just knowing what to expect now, what it's like to play in front of a thousand people - I hope to have been able to pass that knowledge into these boys.

"I've picked up a few things off him [Finch] here and there, about how closely he watches the field when the team is bowling, the way he thinks about the game, the way he talks to bowlers. Batting with him in the nets - the way he thinks about his game and listening to him on how we can achieve a win, it's awesome. Having Shaun Marsh in the squad now, he's another one who I can add on that list of people I've learned a lot from."

Having been part of teams that have global superstars, Harvey knows things others in his team don't. So he takes the responsibility of leading conversations about the pressures of top-flight cricket to his Australia team-mates.

"Mental health is a really big thing in Australian cricket," he says. "Just because of the platform and publicity going on, if you don't do well, some sites will shut you down and make you feel really bad about yourself. It's something me and the coach discuss with the boys because you know there will always be people gunning to bring you down.

"So we try to make the motive here to enjoy your time. If someone's struggling, we can pick up on it because the group is so tight. There are always chats about it, but it's more about how individuals deal with it. Once a player says he's struggling, that's where we can come in to help.

"It's a tough one, but the main thing is the social media attention. It gets all the players in the world, even those in the top-level, and I know from others that it can really bring you down. But as a team, we try and tackle mental health together as a group."

And thus as Harvey looks to become the fourth Australian captain - after Geoff Parker, White and Mitchell Marsh - to lift the U-19 World Cup, he makes it clear what sort of legacy he wants to leave behind once the tournament is done. Mirroring the thoughts of current senior-team coach Justin Langer, Harvey says that winning at the cost of respect is simply not worth it. The last thing he wants is his team to be called "idiots".

"The main thing we talk about is that we will play hard, but also respect everyone - especially umpires and opposition," Harvey says. "We want to be mates with everyone, more so after the games are done.

Australia are in a unique situation. They are nowhere close to being considered favourites, have lost to West Indies for the first time in the history of the Under-19 World Cup, and their mindset is quite different from the cold-blooded, unsparing nature of teams past. Whether they can win the tournament under Harvey's captaincy is yet to be seen, but if they do, it will be the start of a new method of Australian leadership.