Glamorgan are up and running in this season’s T20 Blast and so, too, is their Aussie star, Marnus Labuschagne. Steve Smith had been scheduled to be playing some cricket in Cardiff this summer when Welsh Fire get going, but for Fraser Watson it’s Labuschagne you want to be watching if you’re curious about how Australia will gather their runs in the years to come.
The other afternoon, with the sun beating down, the spectators at Sofia Gardens satisfied, and Glamorgan all but assured of a first T20 Blast win of the season – Marnus Labuschagne got out.
To teammates and home supporters, it mattered little. To the outcome of the game, even less so.
Following a century stand between the Australian No.3 and fellow Queenslander Nick Selman, and a knock of 59 off 47 balls, the job was essentially done.
And yet, Labuschagne was livid. Dragging himself off with the air of a man whose failure to lift Sam Cook’s innocuous delivery over mid-on represented ruin of his afternoon.
Indeed, a close up look at Glamorgan’s much heralded marquee signing for his hour in the middle with Selman gave as fascinating an insight into Labuschagne the character, as it did Labuschagne the player.
The fidgeting, the trigger movements, the concentration, the intensity between the wickets, the clear obsessiveness with batting his side to victory.
And, of course, the thing that has people talking and gained admiring and envious glances from elsewhere since the 26-year-old’s first arrival in Cardiff in 2019 – the runs.
The half century on this occasion proceeded 93 not out last Thursday against Gloucestershire, and preceded knocks of 74 in Surrey, and 22 on Wednesday night versus Kent.
His T20 form comes off the back of guiding his side to a County Championship win over Lancashire, albeit after an underwhelming start to his second chapter in South Wales.
And yet, it was the anguish etched on his face upon falling short of being there for Sunday’s inevitable conclusion which perhaps best represents the reason behind his recent meteoric rise in world cricket.
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) June 15, 2021
The batsman ranked No.3 in the ICC Test Championship rankings is marked as a man who strives for perfection. Batting doesn’t so much represent part of his day job, as it does his way of life.
Indeed, Labuschagne’s answer to hindrances with his cricket equate to proving himself in cricket some more.
In 2019, he was left out of Australia’s Ashes side for the opening two Tests despite a first stint in Glamorgan colours that saw him notch more than 1,100 runs in 10 County Championship matches.
And yet, when his sliding doors moment came as the first ever concussion substitute at Lord’s, his response was to save the Test match and in the meantime, cement a starting berth that now leaves him on 1,885 Test match runs at an average of 60.80.
This year, he had targeted an IPL debut to push his case for selection ahead of the T20 World Cup.
But he went unsold, so, instead, batted Queensland to Sheffield Shield glory.
💬Marnus is a great thinker of the game.💬
🇦🇺 Australia skipper Tim Paine has backed Marnus Labuschagne as a ‘great’ future captain. 🇦🇺
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) June 14, 2021
Last month, he learnt that logistical travel problems will mean he’ll miss his country’s limited overs tour of the West Indies this summer.
A response of 248 runs in three domestic T20 games since seems one of the more proactive ways to sulk about it.
The fact he’s travelled over 9,800 miles to Wales at all, at the tail end of a global pandemic which has curtailed the international plans of professional athletes around the globe, speaks volumes.
His focus and desire to play seems such that you suspect if the outfield collapsed around him, Laubuschagne’s would remain undeterred providing he could still take guard in the middle.
And yet it’s the compulsive personality, the clear obsession with performance, which sees him on track to be categorised among Glamorgan’s best overseas recruitments.
From lauding the charisma and supreme talent of Viv Richards, to singing “Waqar (Younis) is a Welshman”, to including Jaques Kallis in a Wales XI to play England, cricket fans in our nation have long attached patriotism to those who arrive from afar and yet embrace, and more significantly perform for, our only professional side.
Unreal knock in defeat from Marnus Labuschagne, this shot sums up what kind of mood he was in 💥
— Tom Pritchard (@TomJPritchard) June 10, 2021
However, the above notion is not the sort of fanfare Laubuschagne cares about indulging in.
Right now, cricket pundits are labelling him imperative to Glamorgan’s chances of progressing in the T20 blast.
Tim Paine is hailing him a future captain of Australia. England’s bowling coaches are analysing any hint of weakness ahead of the Ashes.
And yet you sense he’s largely oblivious, simply fixated with how many runs he can score against Middlesex on Friday night.
A lot of batsman in cricket are encouraged to free themselves from their inner thoughts.
The last thing Glamorgan want, is for Laubuschagne to snap out of his.