AUS vs IND: Marnus Labuschagne ready to open for Australia

The 26-year-old batsman backs his Queensland team-mate Joe Burns to come good with the bat if chosen to play for Australia.

Marnus Labuschagne avoids a bouncer while batting during the third Ashes Test in Headingley, in August, 2019. - AP

Until a few days ago, David Warner and Joe Burns seemed likely candidates to open the batting for Australia in the first Test against India. Unavoidable circumstances have now made coach Justin Langer consider alternatives; Marnus Labuschagne may be one among them.

With Warner having been ruled out with a groin injury, Will Pucovski recuperating from a mild concussion and Burns out of form, Australia has a selection headache ahead of the day-night Test in Adelaide.

Labuschagne has opened only nine times in his first-class career, the last instance being in 2016. Recently, however, he did open with skipper Aaron Finch once in the One-Day International series but was dismissed for 7. Addressing the media on Saturday, Labuschagne said he was ready to bat wherever the team needed him to.

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“I finished last summer at three. There hasn’t been [any talks about promoting me up the order]. My job is to face the ball that's coming down at me, irrespective of where I bat... Cricket requires you to do the best for the team. If the team needs me to open, that’s what I will do but we have to wait and see how things pan out. It’s about winning games and if it is the best way that’s what we will do.”

The Queensland batsman said he will be more than happy to adopt the role of partnering Burns come Thursday. “He is my Queensland team-mate. He is my Australian team-mate. I really like Joe and we have a good Australian connection. Whenever we are batting, we are good while running between the wickets and make sure we are on the same page,” he said.

'Full faith'

On concerns regarding Burns’s form, Labuschagne said: “I spoke to Joe a couple of nights ago. He is quite all right. We have all been there where you want to score runs. A few innings aren't judgement on a player’s ability and how he is going. I have got full faith in him. If he is selected, he will be ready to go. He is a man for the big moment.”

Australia had a training session on the centre-wicket under lights at the Adelaide Oval on Friday and Labuschagne said it was nice to be back in the scheme of things once again post the COVID-19 pandemic. “The intensity is always up especially when the pink ball is coming at you. It is nice to come back to the feeling of excitement. There’s a bit of nerves. It is a slightly longer lead up to the Test match. So, there are a few more balls being hit in the net. Nothing’s really changed from my perspective,” he said.

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The 26-year-old believes the menacing Australian pace attack is a whetstone for the batsmen. “I always say what makes our batters good is that we face the best bowling attack session in and session out at training. [Mitchell] Starc, [Pat] Cummins, [Josh] Hazlewood, [James] Pattinson are unbelievable bowlers. To be able to face them at every training session is making us the best players we can possibly be at the Test level.

“I have played against those guys in [Sheffield] Shield games. You have got to grind. You have got to be patient. It will be a tough ask to come good against the best bowling attack in the world, that’s currently what we are,” he said.

Labuschagne on Joe Burns (in picture)...“If he is selected, he will be ready to go. He is a man for the big moment.”

 

Labuschagne himself can do little more than just roll his arms over a bit when required. He has been Australia’s go-to fifth bowler in the last year or so, with 12 wickets from 14 matches since his “historic” debut as a concussion sub for Steve Smith during the 2019 Ashes. “I am always ready to bowl. It is just a matter of being ready when that time comes,” Labuschagne said, indicating he will be doubling up as Australia’s second spinner if the side decides to play three fast bowlers.

On being asked about the nuances of the pink-ball game, Labuschagne said, “I think it is definitely [a bit easier to bat] in the day time when the ball isn’t doing that much. It gets harder to see the ball during the day, though. At night time, it is easier to spot the ball but there is a lot more movement.”