Ashes: How the Australian Marnus Labuschagne was made in Plymouth and Sandwich

Labuschagne played for Sandwich Town in 2014

There is a bench somewhere in Kent which was instrumental in the rise of Australian Marnus Labuschagne to winning Ashes and ranking as the number one test paste in the world.external link

It was on this particular bench in 2014 that Labuschagne, 19, would sit on a Saturday morning, visualizing the innings he would play for Sandwich Town the afternoon to come.

He was so focused on his mental preparation that he didn’t notice his teammate and teammate Matt van Poppel walking past on his way to the Sandwich pitch.

“I was going to walk an hour, sit on a bench and visualize my sleeves bullet by bullet – literally until I got a hundred,” Labuschagne told BBC Sport. “The first game for Sandwich, I had 127 in 24 overs. We played 55 games in overs. There were still over half the overs, and I got out.

“I thought to myself if ‘I want to get a double cent, I have to visualize it.’ The next week I visualized the cent, then I hit 200. I got 203 not released.”

Labuschagne’s time at Sandwich, a year after spending a summer in Devon with Plymouth Cricket Club, included playing alongside England wicket keeper Geraint Jones, Ashes winner and raised in Australia, at the club that also produced England hitter Tammy Beaumont.

His 1,049 runs set a new Kent Premier League record for a single-season hitter, surpassing the previous record of 1,012 set by the man who is now his coach for Australia, Justin Langer, during his stint in Dover in 1992. The mark of Labuschagne still standing.

As well as giving him the bragging rights of Langer (if he’s actually brave enough to tease his trainer), it taught Labuschagne a skill that would take him to world number one.

“It was around this time that I learned how strong the mind can be,” he says. “I would visualize the stick, the bowlers and different shots. It’s something I’m going to do now, but more subconsciously.

“I can do that by talking to you now. Thinking about the stick, the way I want to play, the changes I want to make and things like that.

“I’m pretty rare when it comes to thinking about cricket. I’m used to being different.”

These days, the “rarer side” of Labuschagne is congratulating himself when he manages to get past a Ben Stokes bouncer and leave the ball in such flamboyant style he could enter the drag race. by RuPaul.

When he played for Plymouth in 2013, these idiosyncrasies had not yet fully taken shape.

A stint in the South West of England came after successfully persuading his father Andre that time in England was good for his cricket education, then bombarded Agent Rob Humphries with phone calls to find a club.

Sandwich town
Labuschagne (right-back) played in the same Sandwich team as Geraint Jones (right-back)

“I expressed it to my father as being like a study,” says Labuschagne. “Going to England was my college. I wanted to play cricket. You don’t see a doctor kicking an AFL ball to graduate.”

Living in Plympton, he traveled by bicycle. His contract with Plymouth required him to coach, work behind the bar and help maintain the pitch. Labuschagne made hundreds in his first two rounds in England, but failed to hit triple digits again that summer.

“Hell, it was cold,” he said. “My first games, I did a long jump, something I had never done before.

“I learned a very valuable lesson from this trip. I said I wanted to get two cents for the year and be really consistent. I had 126 steps and 130 steps, and I didn’t have a hundred others.

“I learned to set goals for myself. I don’t like limiting myself or anything like that because I realized on this trip that I had set a goal, I achieved it, and then all of a sudden I unconsciously took my foot off the pedal. “

The following summer, after moving to Kent, Labuschagne not only improved his stick, but his lifestyle as well.

Living with Van Poppel and fellow Sandwich player Dan Evans, Labuschagne recognized the need to change his diet. He cut out the sugar and the bread, instead of eating sweet potatoes at virtually every meal, leaving his housemates frustrated with the state of the kitchen.

“They always blow this up,” says Labuschagne. “They think I left the kitchen a mess, but I’m not so sure.”

When Labuschagne was not cooking, he shaded the stick. In addition to Van Poppel and Evans, he befriends fellow Sandwich player Rory Smith.

Smith has since had two stints with Labuschagne in Queensland, while all of Smith, Van Poppel and Evans rushed to Dubai when he made his test debut against Pakistan in 2018. They were part of the Australian squad. snuggling up to the outfield as he was presented with his baggy green cap.

Marnus Labuschagne
Labuschagne scored over 2,000 points in all cricket matches for Sandwich Town in 2014

Although he became a trial cricketer, Labuschagne’s education in the UK was not over.

He had tried county cricket during his time with Sandwich, who was in a few second XI games for Kent, only to give up the effort when it became clear there was no chance of qualifying. as a local player.

When Labuschagne returned as a foreign Glamorgan player in 2019, more than 1,100 races in 10 league games propelled him to the Australian Ashes squad, where he became Test cricket’s first replacement after Steve Smith was hit by a quick bouncer Jofra Archer at Lord’s.

From the first ball he faced, Labuschagne himself was floored by a horrific blow to the grid by Archer, only to get up with a smile and a thumbs-up. Since then, no one with more than 1,000 runs can improve Labuschagne’s average of 67.62. His career overall average of 58.67 is eighth on the all-time list.

“Glamorgan certainly took a punt on me,” he said. “My stats weren’t anything to impress. They knew my character and my work ethic and that was something they were looking for.”

Yet Labuschagne does not view his responsibility with Glamorgan, to whom he returned in 2021 and will be again this year, as greater than the time he spent in Plymouth and Sandwich Town.

“When I was playing for Sandwich and Plymouth it was probably more difficult because I had no experience,” he says.

“It’s your job to win games. They give you the ball when they need wickets; you have to score hundreds of them. It’s your job. Now it’s just a different level.”

If it was England who helped Labuschagne become the best hitter in the world, it was England he helped defeat en route to getting their hands on the Ashes urn after the upcoming fifth test. in Hobart.

His scores of 74, 103 and 51 not out of it helped him secure victories in the first two vital tests, with Australia now on course for another landslide victory in an Ashes series at home.

“The UK has helped me tremendously,” says Labuschagne. “Just the sheer number of matches. I played club cricket three times a week. I was learning the trade.

“I have a lot of reasons to be grateful for English cricket.”

English cricket might not be so grateful in return.

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