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Marnus Labuschagne: ‘There’s someone above putting the pieces of the puzzle together’


Marnus Labuschagne: ‘There’s someone above putting the pieces of the puzzle together’


With the bat, he had made 304 runs at a strike rate of 75.62. It raised questions – did it make sense, especially since Australia had another anchor, Steven Smith, who they wanted in the XI.

As it turned out, Australia kept the faith, and Labuschagne delivered in the final with a made-for-the-situation innings, an unbeaten 58 off 110 balls, to help take Australia home.

It was tailor-made for him, to stand alongside Travis Head, who had built a strong platform on his way to a barnstorming century. The target was just 241. Labuschagne had walked out at 47 for 3. He said later that he didn’t need any clarity on how he had to approach it. By the time their 192-run stand ended with Head holing out in the deep, the trophy was just two runs away.

“I was quite nervous when I was waiting to bat,” Labuschagne told reporters afterwards. “But when you get on the field, nothing really changes. You’re watching the ball, and you just try and get in the zone, trying to focus, the noise sort of gets blocked out, it gets into the periphery, but it was loud. There was a bit of pressure there, but it was good.

“My mindset was you treat it like a Test match. When you’re batting with Travis Head, there’s usually no run-rate pressure. When you’re chasing a lower total like 230 [241], unless you’re really struggling, there’s not going to be much run-rate pressure. It was just about being nice and positive, but also lock-in like I would if I was playing a Test match, just making sure I was defending the ball well and when they bowled a bad ball, score off that. Just make sure you’re building a partnership with your partner out there.”

Labuschagne showed off his World Cup medal as he spoke. Prior to speaking to us – when Pat Cummins was speaking to the media – Labuschagne had stood at the corner of the room, clicking selfies as he tried out a few different poses while clutching his medal, chuckling to himself all along.

Perhaps there was realisation at how things can change when you least expect. Labuschagne wasn’t anywhere near Australia’s World Cup squad until two months ago. He’d even been left out of their tour party to South Africa, a precursor to their World Cup campaign, after averaging 22.30 at a strike rate of 69.87 in 14 innings prior to that. But fate had something else in store.

As he was preparing to play for Australia A against the touring New Zealand A in Brisbane, he was summoned to South Africa as a batting cover for Smith following an injury scare (wrist tendon). At the time, it was seen as nothing more than a trip to the country he hails from, except his mum, Alta, had an inkling that Labuschagne would play the series opener in Bloemfontein. Maybe it was just a mother’s instinct, but it was prophetic.

Labuschagne came in as a concussion sub for Cameron Green in the first ODI and finished the match 80 not out to seal a tense three-wicket win. The situation was similar to the Ashes Test at Lord’s in 2019, when he walked out to bat after Smith had been concussed, and then batted with poise against a raging pace attack like he hadn’t experienced before.

“It’s hard for me not to believe in miracles,” he said. “There’s someone above putting the pieces of the puzzle together. I think unofficially I was dropped five times. I wasn’t in the squad in South Africa, someone got concussed, I got an opportunity, got some runs and pushed my case. Then I got on the squad, and played 19 games in a row, since the first South Africa match. I’m very thankful to the coaches and selectors for sticking by me. There are some really good players. Marcus Stoinis missed out this game, and he’s a phenomenal player. I’m just very thankful they stuck by me and I lucked out.”

Labuschagne admitted that while his overall output was far from satisfactory, there had been shades of form in the nets. When he saw the surface for the final – a black soil deck that ended up aiding slow turn – he knew it was right down his alley. It also helped that the slightly bigger ground dimensions in Ahmedabad suited him, in terms of being able to hit the ball into the open spaces to milk runs.

“I didn’t get a hit against Bangladesh, I missed out on a few games to bat, but I felt like since the start of the South Africa tour, I’d been batting really well. Some of the scenarios that I came in during this World Cup have been tough. Three-four down early, trying to navigate those scenarios have been tough. That contributed a little bit of my demise,” Labuschagne said. “At times, I didn’t score as fast as I would’ve liked but the most important thing is winning games and today was a great example of just absorbing that pressure and making sure that I was there at the end.

“I wasn’t going to give it up for anything at the end. They could’ve brought all the fielders around me, inside the circle, I was still going to block it and make sure I wasn’t getting out now.”

As victory neared, Labuschagne derived satisfaction from silencing the home crowd. He touched upon how banking on past experience – he played a Test match here earlier in the year – had been beneficial in trying to keep out the noise.

“The sound of silence is a great sound in India because it means you’re on top,” he said. “When me and Travis were batting, we were discussing about making sure we got them here, everything’s quiet, just keep playing. We played two different styles, he played an unbelievable innings, but it was about keeping engaged every ball, play every ball on merit and keep the crowd out of it.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


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