Australia batsman Marnus Labuschagne was handed his first Cricket Australia contract in May this year after his prolific Test performances against England, Pakistan and New Zealand saw him named one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year.
And while it remains unclear when Labuschagne will next be able to take guard in the middle, the 26-year-old has set his sights on the “exciting” contest against India over four Tests — scheduled to start in December — even if it means the Boxing Day Test being moved away from the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
“At the end of the day, we want India to be here and we want it to be a great series. It’s going to be very exciting. Can’t wait,” Labuschagne said.
“Everyone knows where they want the Boxing Day Test to be. But if that can’t happen, then we have to make sure that cricket is still going ahead, and if that means playing in a different state, that’s what’s going to happen. If not the MCG, then I wouldn’t mind playing the Boxing Day Test at the Gabba…have always loved playing in Brisbane.”
India’s depth of pace resources was on full display during its maiden Test series win in Australia in 2018-19. Jasprit Bumrah led the tally with 21 wickets at an average of 17.00, and with the India challenge looming large, Labuschagne is already looking forward to a mouth-watering face-off.
“I always like challenging myself against the best…and Bumrah is one of the best, probably across all formats. So, it is always nice when we are coming up against him because he is a high-class bowler. It’s match-ups like these that make Test cricket so enjoyable and challenging,” he said.
Labuschagne also said that the silence in the stands shouldn’t have a bearing on performance, and felt the Indian players will find ways to motivate themselves if the series is played behind closed doors. “I don’t think the Indian team will be thinking about it too much because it is definitely something that you need to get used to,” he said.
“I don’t know if it affects the performance of a player, but it definitely adds a different feel. It’s a bit more quiet-eyed…a little more internal, you are thinking about your own thoughts a bit more as opposed to the loud environs when you are playing in front of 50,000-odd supporters. You sort of miss that echoing noise.
“It’s kind of like going back to playing club cricket where there aren’t too many people watching anyway. I’m sure like any other great team they’ll find a way around that and come up with a way to perform with or without crowds.”
Labuschagne made a compelling case for his selection in Australia’s Ashes squad last year with 1,057 runs at 70.46 for Glamorgan in county cricket. The club has now extended his contract until 2022. He had been due to play for the county this summer, as part of a two-year deal, but his arrival was deferred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Australia’s Test No. 3 does not want to confine himself to first-class cricket alone. In fact, earlier this year, Labuschagne had expressed the desire to mould himself into a multi-format batsman in the vein of Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Joe Root and Steve Smith.
“He (Kohli) averages 53 in Test cricket, 59 in ODIs (One-Day Internationals) and 50 in T20Is (Twenty20 Internationals)… If that’s not a world-class player, then I don’t know who is… There are so many things about his game that’s good. That said, I try and imbibe the good from all batters, not just the top guys. There’s so much to learn from how each cricketer goes about his craft.”
Although T20s aren’t a priority in Labuschagne’s career at the moment, with just 10 appearances for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League, he does harbour the ambition to play the shortest format of cricket for Australia at some stage, and he wouldn’t mind throwing his hat into the Indian Premier League ring should the chance manifest.
“If an opportunity comes up to be involved in the Indian Premier League, then definitely… When it comes to pitching yourself against the best players in the shortest format, there is no better competition than the IPL,” he said.