Although several players have been disappointing in the three Tests so far, the Australian selectors have avoided wholesale changes, only adding 24-year old Marnus Labuschagne to the squad. Labuschagne is a batting all-rounder, picked as much for his leg-spinning prowess that may come in handy on a Sydney surface likely to assist spin.
South African born Labuschagne made his made his first-class debut for Queensland against South Australia during the 2014-15 Sheffield Shield season.
He made his Test debut against Pakistan in the UAE earlier this year (October 2018). Although he could just muster 81 runs in the two Tests (four innings) he has played so far, he impressed with a solid 43 in the second innings in Abu Dhabi. He also managed to pick 7 wickets at 22.42 apiece in his two Test outings this far.
Labuschagne was used as a substitute fielder in the second Test against India at the Gabba in 2014 where he took a good low catch at short leg to get rid of Varun Aaron off the bowling of Nathan Lyon.
He plays for Redlands in Brisbane’s Grade Cricket Competition and has also spent two seasons playing club cricket for Plymouth in the Devon Premier League and Sandwich in the Kent Premier League.
In November 2015, in his eighth Shield match, Labuschagne recorded his maiden first-class hundred – 112 against South Australia in Brisbane. It was a good knock against a solid attack comprising of Chadd Sayers, Joe Mennie and Adam Zampa. He partnered with Matthew Renshaw for a 189-run stand taking his side to an innings victory.
He aggregated 271 runs at an average of 45.16 and strike rate of 90.63 in the 2016-17 Matador BBQs One-Day Cup and was adjudged player of the tournament. This helped him make his T20 debut for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League in Melbourne in January, 2017.
In September 2017, he became the first player to be penalized by the umpires under the new rule of “fake fielding”, costing his team five penalty runs.
Labuschagne played a leading role in Queensland’s triumph and was the second-highest scorer with 795 runs at an average of 39.75 in the 2017-18 Sheffield Shield.
He was named in Cricket Australia’s Sheffield Shield team of the year in March 2018.
Overall, in 43 first-class matches, he has scored 2521 runs at an average of 33.17. This includes 4 hundreds and has also picked 24 wickets. However, he has performed below par this season (2018-19) and averages just 28.22 with the bat and 59.60 with the ball.
In 19 List A matches, he aggregates 686 runs at an average of 38.11 and strike rate of 84.58 including 8 fifties.
A plain reading of the numbers would suggest Labuschagne is unlikely to dominate the Test match stage, but Australia will be hoping that he can make enough of an impact in Sydney to help them overcome a rampaging Indian outfit.
First Published: December 31, 2018, 3:57 PM IST