The meteoric rise of Marnus Labuschagne
A leg-spinner-turned batsman and bursting on to the scene by making the number three position in Tests his very own sounds like Deja vu! Marnus Labuschagne has followed the footsteps of teammate and close friend Steve Smith and has shown some astonishing form off late which has helped him cement his place in the Australian Test side. A good bloke and a person full of life both on and off the field, his Test form has been rewarded with a maiden call-up to the ODI squad for the series versus India.
Labuschagne initially played as an opener for Queensland and an 83 on his first-class debut back in 2014 showed that he is capable of batting in the top order. He kept developing at Queensland and had a breakthrough season in 2017-18 Sheffield Shield, Australia's premier domestic competition, where he was the second-highest run-scorer for Queensland scoring 795 runs in 11 games at an average close to 40.
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Labuschagne finally got his maiden Test call-up when Australia toured UAE to play Pakistan in a two-match Test series in October 2018. Batting at number six, Labuschagne scored only 81 runs in the two Tests and fell out of favour instantly. But he did not give up and went back to playing the Sheffield Shield for Queensland, scoring 416 runs from 9 games. He showed glimpses of his brilliance when he was picked to play versus India at the SCG. The right-handed batsman also played an impressive knock of 81 in the Test series against Sri Lanka later that summer.
Australia were set to play England after the conclusion of the 2019 World Cup with an objective of winning the Ashes in England after 18 long years. While Steve Smith returned to Test cricket in some style, piling on the runs and misery on the England bowlers, Labuschagne was named as a concussion substitute when the former Australia captain got hit on the head by a ball bowled by Jofra Archer. This was the opportunity that changed everything for Labuschagne. He managed to score 353 runs in 4 Tests at an average of above 50, keeping Usman Khawaja out of the team and making the number three position his own. He believes that his short stint with Glamorgan helped him in tackling the English conditions.
Labuschagne managed to fill in for the poor form of David Warner throughout the series as Australia managed to retain the Ashes. Australia were no more the side that were over-dependent on just Smith and Warner. Labuschagne had taken to life at number three like fish to water. He had managed to get close to that elusive maiden Test ton but the situation demanded him to play big shots and he got out on both occasions for the sake of the team.
But the moment was inevitable as Labuschagne scored 347 runs in the Two tests against Pakistan at home, which included two big hundreds. Although it could be argued that Pakistan had an inexperienced bowling attack, the kind of batting and freedom that Marnus played with was sensational. After inflicting a 2-0 whitewash on Pakistan, Australia then were set to host their trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand for a three-match test series. Labuschagne shone once again as he scored a fantastic hundred in the first Test at Perth as Australia managed to beat New Zealand comfortably. He has so far scored 256 runs in the ongoing series against the Black Caps.
The hundreds that he has got are all big hundreds and that also goes a long way in showing his temperament and willingness to not throw his wicket away after a century and to bat for long periods. With 1085 runs from 11 Tests at a stupendous average of 67.81, Labuschagne is the highest run-scorer in Tests in 2019 and is also the highest run-scorer in first-class cricket since the beginning of 2018, a unique feat that shows the kind of a run machine that he has turned into.
Labuschagne has also been in scintillating form in white-ball cricket as he was the second-highest run-scorer for Queensland in the Marsh One-Day Cup scoring 364 runs in six games at an amazing average of 60.66. The 25-year-old has certainly come-off age and with 1166 runs in 13 Tests, some of the former Australian greats like Ian Chappell have already started comparing him to the likes of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke. Labuschagne certainly has a bright future ahead of him and now he would love to bring his red-ball international form into white-ball international cricket and is likely to make his ODI debut against India.Published 28 Dec 2019, 07:49 IST