Until 10 pm on Saturday, Marnus Labuschagne didn’t know whether he would be featuring in Australia’s line-up for the World Cup final against India the next day.
Eventually, it turned out to be an eventful outing for the 29-year-old as he played a pivotal role in guiding Australia to its record sixth title at the Narendra Modi Stadium, beating home favourite India by six wickets.
While Travis Head took centre stage with a gritty century, Labuschagne’s patient unbeaten 58 was equally significant in building the match-winning 192-run partnership for the fourth wicket, after Australia had been reduced to 47 for three.
It’s certainly the stuff fairy tales are made of. But for Labuschagne, it was nothing less than a miracle. “It’s hard for me not to believe in miracles, and that there’s someone above putting the pieces together,” Labuschagne said.
He was initially sidelined from Australia’s 18-member provisional World Cup squad but was included at the last moment, replacing the injured Ashton Agar. And, he stepped up whenever it mattered. He scored 362 runs - including three fifties from 10 innings - at an average of 40.22, but his effort in the final was quite extraordinary.
“Last night, 10 o’clock, the team hadn’t been announced yet. Didn’t know (if I was playing), I was sitting on my bed. And I was actually thinking: How can I add value then if I’m not playing? Maybe fielding?” he said.
“Then at quarter past 10, the team got sent out and it just said ‘same team’. So that was a bit of a relief.”
With a smile on his face and a medal hanging around his neck, Labuschagne said, “You guys know (that) I am a man of faith, and I believe in God. The way everything that’s happened, it’s unbelievable to me. It’s just amazing. I’m lost for words…”
Three months ago, the Australian selectors snubbed Labuschagne after his indifferent form in the ODIs then, and left him out of the provisional squad for the World Cup.
However, a wrist injury to Steve Smith during the tour of South Africa, opened up doors for Labuschagne, and there was no looking back since. He went on to play 19 games on the trot since his comeback.
“I think I was unofficially dropped five times, but played every game,” said Labuschagne. “I wasn’t in the squad in South Africa. Someone got concussed, I got an opportunity, got some runs, pushed my case, got in the squad, played 19 games since the first South Africa (ODI) in a row.”
“So, it’s hard for me not to think, you know, as a man of faith, that there’s not someone else pulling the strings..” he said, adding with a smile: “I’m very thankful for the coaches and selectors for sticking by me … luckily I got us over the line..”
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