Domain Test Series v Pakistan
The technical tweak that unlocked Marnus' might
A simple flaw spotted - and corrected - by his Glamorgan coach prompted the Ashes star's remarkable run spree
11 November 2019, 08:02 PM AEST
A subtle technical change is behind Marnus Labuschagne's transformation from Test bolter to certain starter in Brisbane and has seen him produce a prolific and extended run of form.
Labuschagne is far from an overnight success, but he became a household name after his Ashes heroics during the winter, and the 25-year-old Queenslander was quick to credit his time with Glamorgan in the County Championship for fine-tuning his game for English conditions.
Now Glamorgan coach Matthew Maynard has revealed the simple secret he told Labuschagne that proved the final piece in the puzzle for a player for whom too much cricket chat is never enough.
In his first net session with the Welsh county, Maynard spotted a technical flaw in Labuschagne's stroke that could prove ruinous in English conditions.
"For me his bat path wasn't great. It wasn't coming down on the line of the ball," Maynard told cricket.com.au.
"His was coming from a little wider. The reason for that was (the position of) his hip and his back leg.
"So we addressed that balance to keep his hips a little more side on and therefore keeping that back foot parallel to the crease.
"All of a sudden that righted the bat path to the ball."
The results were immediate, and astounding.
In Labuschagne's 50 first-class matches before arriving at Glamorgan, he'd scored 2,812 runs in 93 innings, for four centuries and 17 fifties at an average of 31.95 since his debut in late 2014.
Since making an adjustment to his bat path and alignment at the crease he has been on a hot streak, pumping out five centuries and 12 fifties for 1755 runs at 60.52 in 33 innings.
It's a run of form he'll look to extend tomorrow when Queensland play defending Marsh Sheffield Shield champions Victoria at the MCG in his last hit-out before the first Domain Test on his Gabba home turf from November 21.
Maynard saw in the South African-born Queenslander the sort of technique "you could get away with" in Australia but one that would leave him vulnerable in England where, as a general rule, bowlers attack the stumps a lot more.
"It was something we wanted to address as soon as possible," the coach added.
"It wouldn't have worked if he had a closed mind. Marnus was very keen to learn, he's got a very open mind.
"He knows his body so well, some of the training he does, he understands his movements, he understands his body, so it was not long in adapting that – just three or four sessions."
With an insatiable appetite for cricket, Labuschagne was a sponge eager to soak up Maynard's advice and work on improving his game, as he has been doing for the past seven years when he made the decision he no longer wanted to be "just a run of the mill grade cricketer".
He's been working with noted batting coach Neil D'Costa – the Sydney-based mentor whose past students include Michael Clarke, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Starc and the late Phillip Hughes, as well as a bevy of internationals – since he was spotted at the Under-19 Championships.
"There is a long, long process to this. It didn't just happen overnight and everything just magically clicked," Labuschagne told Nine Publishing.
"You have to go through the ups and downs of Shield cricket to understand what it requires to keep coming back.
"You have to go through the highs and the lows to fully grasp how to become a better player. There will be many more of both but if you can understand that early, you are better placed to take the chances when they arrive."
Labuschagne was chastised by Maynard for "leaving a couple of double-centuries out there" during his prolific stint with Glamorgan where he played 20 matches across the formats before joining the Australia squad.
"The biggest difference for me in England was going over and learning to play your game in the middle, not playing your game in the nets," Labuschagne said.
"I think that was something I struggled with a bit, I always felt like I had to hit a ton of balls because I wasn't getting that time in the middle.
"The one thing I learned in England was to really cherish that time in the middle... you can't give that up for anything. That's where I did a lot of the learning over the (northern) summer."
A livewire in the dressing room as much as on the field, Labuschagne's enthusiasm, energy and work ethic are well documented – they are the qualities that got him the gig with Glamorgan in the first place.
"We didn't sign him on his record, we signed him on what he could bring into the environment," says Maynard.
But for the man who played more top-flight cricket than any other player between October 2018 and September 2019 according to a recent ESPN survey, a pre-season exercise putting the Glamorgan squad through a character study saw the Queenslander add another string to his bow.
"We had all the guys profiled and Marnus really enjoyed that exercise," Maynard explains.
"And then he could understand himself a little bit better again, about what makes him so competitive on the pitch.
"And, if he's not feeling it, what he needs to do to get into that competitive nature.
"He's a courageous guy, a proper warrior out on the pitch. It didn't surprise me he was so successful (in the Ashes series)."
That dogged warrior attitude has seen Labuschagne quickly become the man to turn to in a crisis for his team.
Having replaced Smith midway through the Lord's match as Test cricket's first concussion substitute, Labuschagne peeled off four successive fifties, including top-scoring with 59 to bail the Aussies out after they were 2-19.
In Leeds, as Smith sat out, he top-scored with 74 out of 179 having arrived at 2-25, and in the second innings again top-scored with 80 as Australia slipped from 2-36 to 4-97 around him.
With Smith back in the team and the top order again leaving Australia vulnerable at 2-28, he scored 67 in a 116-run stand for the third wicket.
In the Marsh Sheffield Shield, Labuschagne top-scored with 69 for Queensland when the next highest was 19, and backed that up with 52, again the top score, in the match against the NSW Blues and their Mitchell Starc-led attack.
And when the Bulls lost 5-7 around him against South Australia at the Gabba, he steadied the ship with an unbeaten 72 to steer Queensland to the win in the fourth innings.
The evidence continues to mount, and Maynard is convinced it's only a matter of time before the 25-year-old is regularly turning out in white-ball games for Australia as well.
"He's a three-dimensional cricketer; not only is he a quality batsman he's a top fielder and his leg spin is very useful as well," Maynard says.
"I see him being a full three-dimensional player in all three formats.
"A lot of that is down to pure belief and organising his game play. The more he plays the shorter form the better he'll get."
Labuschagne's first-class career before and since Glamorgan stint
BEFORE GLAMORGAN Matches: 50 | Inns: 93 | Runs: 2812 | 100s: 4 | 50s: 17 | Ave: 31.95 | HS: 134
SINCE GLAMORGAN Matches: 19 | Inns: 33 | Runs: 1755 | 100s: 5 | 50s: 12 | Ave: 60.52 | HS: 182