From a lower order batsman to one of Australia’s prolific Test run-getters, Marnus Labuschange has carved his spot in the Australian line-up. The highest run-scorer in a calendar year in Test cricket in 2019, ‘mind-blowing’ Labuschange is now looking to break into the one-day team for the tour of India.
Many Australians might still struggle to pronounce his surname but they certainly know who Marnus Labuschagne is after the 25-year-old smashed 896 runs in five Tests against Pakistan and New Zealand over the home summer.
The irrepressible right-hander finished with an average of 112 for the five matches after a double century, two 150s, one century and three half centuries in eight innings.
His run tally was the best for an Australian in a five-Test summer Down Under -- bettering superlative efforts from Neil Harvey and Donald Bradman among others -- and only nine runs short of Englishman Wally Hammond's 91-year-old record.
"What he's done is mind-blowing, really," coach Justin Langer told reporters on Tuesday.
"It's a great credit to him, it's a great credit to his mental and physical endurance.
"It's a great credit to his humility that he's been able to remain so grounded through it. Marnus loves it so much he'd do it for nothing and those are the guys you love having around the group."
Former Australia captain Greg Chappell says Labuschagne has the temperament and technique to become one of Australia's best number three batsmen alongside Ponting, Don Bradman and himself.
"He has always had a solid technique and shots on both sides of the wicket," Chappell said.
"He is looking to score runs. He is not looking to survive.
"He is always looking to get a single, looking to get off strike, looking for the bad ball... they are the traits that I have seen in nearly 70 years of watching cricket that the good players have."
But for the one-year bans handed to Steve Smith and David Warner for their parts in the 2018 Newlands ball-tampering scandal, however, Labuschagne might still be in Queensland waiting for his chance to play Test cricket.
Born in South Africa but raised in Brisbane from the age of 10, Labuschagne was a surprise selection for the series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in October 2018, Australia's first after the tainted tour of South Africa.
He hardly set the world alight batting down the order in his first two Tests and was a controversial call-up for the fourth Test against India that sealed Australia's first home series defeat to an Asian opposition.
Those were dark times for Australian cricket but captain Tim Paine said opportunities given to the likes of Labuschagne had been as important to the team's resurgence as the return from suspension of Smith and Warner.
"We spoke a lot about it last year, of there being a silver lining about what has happened," Paine told reporters after Australia sealed an emphatic 3-0 sweep of New Zealand on Monday.
"The guys who got the opportunity to play Test cricket who probably wouldn't have. One of them is man of the series and has scored the most (Test) runs (in 2019)."
That was Labuschagne, of course, with his 1,104 runs at 64.94 over the calendar year sending him clear of every other Test batsman.
But Labuschagne’s big moment had come at the Ashes during the English summer in 2019, when he became the first concussion substitute in a Test match, coming in to replace Steve Smith.
It was during the second Test at Lord's when in-form Smith was felled by a vicious bouncer off England paceman Jofra Archer in the second innings.
Smith's departure opened the way for Labuschagne, who grabbed the opportunity with both hands and he finished the Ashes series with 353 runs at 50.42, reeling off four consecutive half-centuries.
The 25-year-old is now only behind Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson, to be the ranked four in the ICC Test batsmen rankings.
"I haven't really had a chance to stop and reflect on the summer that I have had," Labuschagne said after his double century against New Zealand last week in Sydney.
"Looking at it, it has been a very special summer but the real privilege is playing in this team."
Labuschagne understands the rich history of batting greats Australia has had coming in at one wicket down, declaring the role had been a "pinnacle one for Australia and there is a lot that comes with that".
"The standard is so high. For me, it's about upholding that standard," he said.
"That is making sure I am sticking to the process and trusting my game and not trying to be anyone else -- making that position mine in my own way."
Next up for Labuschagne is Australia's tour of India in the 50-overs format, where he will be looking to win his first one-day international cap.
Australia play India in a three-match ODI series. The first game will be played on January 14 at the Wankhede Stadium.
"It's going to be great opportunity," he said.
"I just love the journey and it's lot of fun to be a part of the Australian set up."
Edited by Norma Godinho