Marnus Labuschagne: Chasing wins in T20s, not special knocks

Ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup later this year, Australia's Labuschagne talks about his T20 game, strengths and weaknesses and his performance at the ongoing Vitality Blast in England.

Marnus Labuschagne is currently in England, representing Glamorgan in the English county setup.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Marnus Labuschagne has hit a purple patch in the 2021 Twenty20 (T20) Blast in England. Australia's Labuschagne, one of Glamorgan's overseas players, has 261 runs from five matches so far, at a strike rate of 135.23 with three consecutive fifties. He was not picked for Australia's tour of the West Indies because of travel and quarantine problems and is expected to be with Glamorgan until July 22.

Since his international debut against Pakistan in 2018, Labuschagne, 26, has grown in stature and is currently the third-ranked batsman in Test cricket. 

Labuschagne talks about his T20 game, strengths and weaknesses and aspirations for the upcoming T20 World Cup.

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What role do you believe you can play in the Australian T20 team?

My role is about assessing the game and playing the situation regardless of what I would like to do. That might be different for an opener because his job might be to strike at 160 or 170 in those first six overs. I am considering a broader thing - if it is a low run chase, making sure I am finishing games off. My job is to understand what's needed right here, right now, rather than maybe try and strike at 200. But if the situation demands me to play at a higher strike rate, that's what I will try and do. 

Have you ever been worried that if you changed your batting for T20s, it would have an impact on your Test cricket? 

No. I put things in different categories. My T20 batting is entirely different from how I play red-ball cricket. My set-up is different. The way I think about it is different. But you need to remind yourself that good cricket shots are still the right way to go about an innings. They still carry value. Probably my strengths are reading the game and being able to adapt. I rely on playing more touch shots, beating fielders, trying to stay ahead of the bowler. My T20 game is a work in progress. I spoke to our (Glamorgan) coach here Matt Maynard about certain areas I want to keep improving in. In the T20s, I am looking for that boundary option early in an over. I have a slightly wider stance, maybe slightly more leg side of the ball as opposed to off-side as I have been traditionally in Test cricket. Also, there is a lot of spin bowling here and a lot of guys bowl in the 115-120 kph bracket, so playing shots off those deliveries... finding areas of the ground to hit that ball hard. Often, off good length balls, you can't just play with a straight bat. I give myself room and try to hit the ball hard back down the ground with a cross bat... Sometimes in the middle overs, I am trying to predict what a bowler's going to bowl, trying to have that boundary option and also be ready if he doesn't bowl in that area.

Marnus Labuschagne: The Australian Twenty20 side is very strong and consistent. It's a dangerous side.   -  GETTY IMAGES


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Marnus, the T20 batsman, what does he chase - special innings or consistency?

I would want to play more than just one special knock. A special knock, for me, is every time we win a game, and I am there at the end, or I have had a big contribution. If the game requires me to play a special knock to win, then that's what I want to do. That said, I am not out there chasing special knocks. I am chasing wins.

What is the most adventurous stroke you have played?

One of the strokes I played the other day against Gloucestershire where I went across the stumps to lap the ball, but the bowler went wide, and I was still able to adapt and hit a boundary through the short third-man area. When you are trying to hit a boundary in a certain area ... to then adapt and still get four runs [when the bowler changes plans]... I value that as a very good shot. If I can do that more often, it will make me a much better player. Usually, when you are focused on scoring through one section of the ground, it is difficult to hit a boundary if it's not in that zone. There have also been many shots that I have played and thought, 'Jeez I didn't know I had that in me'.

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Do you practise these shots in the nets ahead of a T20 match?

When I hit the nets here [in England], it's about hitting sixes .. hit the ball hard because my strength is more manipulating field, and I feel like that's not necessarily a skill that is easy to practise in the nets. I leave that for the game when I have got the visual of the field in real time. In the nets, I don't use my touch game that much. It's more about harnessing my power game.

As a globetrotting cricketer, who is your go-to person to discuss T20 cricket?

I have spoken a lot with my coach back home, Neil D'Costa. Matt Maynard here, just about the game and where I can improve... if I am asking those questions... I already know where I can improve .. so it is more about how I can achieve that. Currently, it is about being in those situations more, learning. I have played only 21 T20 games, which is not a lot ... the best way for me is to be out there and try and learn what risks I need to take and when.

The T20 World Cup is scheduled for later this year in India. What are your - and Australia's - aspirations for that event?

I hope we win the World Cup. The Australian Twenty20 side is very strong and consistent. It's a dangerous side. We need to continue playing high-quality cricket... I would love to be a part of the squad that goes to the World Cup. My focus right now is just trying to win Glamorgan the Blast. If that means some days I miss out with the bat, I can contribute more as a bowler. If I miss out with the ball, I can do it on the field. I am always trying to contribute. You can't look far ahead because you know what the game does. It can turn very quickly (smiles).

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