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Why Marnus won’t be moulded into a captain … yet



Labuschagne enters Boxing Day as the world’s best Test batsman – he has leapfrogged Steve Smith and Joe Root on the ICC rankings – with the No. 3 averaging a monstrous 102 runs in first innings since replacing Smith as a concussion substitute at Lord’s in the 2019 Ashes.New South Wales installed Pat Cummins as its 50-over skipper in February to give the golden boy a taste of captaincy because he loomed as Tim Paine’s obvious replacement.But Queensland Cricket has no plans to upskill Labuschagne, 27, anytime soon.Instead, they are happy for the runs to keep piling in.Catch every moment of The Ashes live and ad-break free during play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free now.“Right now we’ve got an excellent captain in Usman Khawaja,” QC chairman of selectors Chris Hartley told News Corp.“I think Marnus has got an opportunity in the future somewhere, whether it’s a captaincy role for Queensland or even at the next level.“In the meantime the key for him is really establishing himself in that No. 3 spot for Australia.“We potentially take it for granted a little bit – it’s a very difficult spot. Not only because of how important it is for the team, but it’s such a crucial position and he’s taken to it like a duck to water.“There’s always going to be opportunities to give him some leadership. Right now the best thing is for him to keep doing that and that leadership opportunity will present itself in the future for sure.”Labuschagne is England’s No. 1 problem and while his maiden Ashes hundred came with chances, Ben Stokes resorted to bumpers as a low-percentage tactic to curb his influence.“He loves practising, he loves batting, he’s as fit as any athlete in Australia and he’s just a terrific bloke to have around the team,” coach Justin Langer said.“He had a very good batting coach in Neil D’Costa who has worked with Michael Clarke and Phil Hughes in the past – and they’re all the ingredients.”“People who have got that energy and love for the game who have no doubt got some natural talent, well you like to take a punt on them.“He astounds us every time. I’ve got absolutely no reason to believe he won’t keep getting better and better. Let’s hope he continues this incredible rise.”The crazy car bet that underlines Marnus’ No. 1 status— Robert CraddockIn bygone eras Australia’s cricketer of the year used to win a car … Marnus Labuschagne offered to give his away.Labuschagne playfully put it up as an incentive prize for former England captain Adam Hollioake to go full pelt at Labuschagne with a metal “whanger’’ in the nets.Hollioake told the story on the Giving Away The Game podcast and confirmed it when I called him.“I had a ball that was swinging, and I had a thrower that I had just been using against Joe Burns and other players in the (Queensland) Shield side and I had been getting them out pretty easily,’’ Hollioake told the podcast.“Marnus came in and said, ‘OK I bet you can’t get me out … you won’t nick me out in this session, and if you do, I’ll give you my car.’ I said ‘I hope you’ve got two because you’ll be walking home … I’m going to get this guy out easy.’“So, I start throwing and he’s leaving the ball well. And after about 15 minutes he said, ‘just to give you a clue, I haven’t nicked one since November 13 – Jackson Bird versus Tasmania at the Gabba. “At this stage this was June … so, he hadn’t nicked the ball for five months. That doesn’t sound like sledging, but all of a sudden now I’m holding the ball to swing in. I’m trying to bowl inswingers rather than trying to go out to make him nick off. So, he’s completely changed my tactic to try and get him out and I’ve gone away from what I was doing well. And I didn’t get him out.”The story says much about the mindset of the batter who now tops the world rankings just two years after making his Ashes debut as a concussion substitute in England.First there is the insatiable zest for the contest. Net sessions are never boring for Marnus.But beneath the jousting lies a calculating, uncluttered mind with a firm plan of what it wants to achieve.“Don’t be fooled by all that enthusiasm – in some ways it’s worn as a mask,’’ Hollioake told News Corp.“He is one of the great problem solvers. I have been involved in cricket at a high level for 30 years and he is just 27 yet I find I am learning stuff from him.“I can see what he is doing. There is a statistic in cricket that more than 50% of dismissals are caught between the keeper and point and he is trying to take that 50% out of play by leaving as many balls as he can.“He lines the ball up with the inside edge of his bat and sets up so anything outside the line of his right eye he can leave. Tactically he is very astute.“I was surprised I could not get him out because we were using Duke balls and I was bowling at a solid pace.“The fact that he would bet his car on not getting says to me is a very good player and a confident one … and that he’s got too much money!’’ 

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