Labuschagne’s ‘throwback’ double threat
Marnus Labuschagne first stamped himself as a true Australian No.3 way back in last summer's historic Test series loss to India.
And on top of dominating Pakistan and India with the bat this summer, he has also marked himself as our second-best spin bowling option at Test level; an invaluable double threat.
That's the call from former Australian captain Ian Chappell, with Labuschagne, 25, having made 185, 162, 143 and 50 to launch his home campaign.
Chappell said that Labuschagne, who starred in the Ashes after coming in mid-second Test as a concussion replacement, had proven that self-belief was a powerful asset.
"Every bloke who reaches Test level has got (big run-scoring) in them; it's only very few who are able to do it," Chappell told Wide World of Sports.
"In a lot of ways I'm not surprised, because when he offered to bat at No.3 in the Test against India at the SCG, that said something about the guy. Particularly when No.3 seems to be the pariah position in world cricket for some reason or another; I don't understand that.
"But here was everybody trying to avoid it, when Marnus was saying, 'Yeah, I'll take it on'. That told you something about the guy.
"Not only did he want to take it on, I think he definitely believed that he could do it. He believed at the time that he could do it and now he's proved that he can do it.
"I've seen improvement in his game, even from England to this series. That's always a good sign in a young player, that he realises that he's got to get better; just because he's at Test level doesn't mean that's the end of the road.
"I think he's the sort of guy who, obviously the bowlers will adjust to him because if they don't, they go out of the game; but he's shown signs that when they adjust, he'll be working on making his own adjustments. That's the sign of a very good player."
Chappell said that Labuschagne was close to being the ideal No.3 batsman.
"He's pretty close. I don't think he's in the Ricky Ponting class, that's your ideal. But he's got a lot of good traits," Chappell said.
"He can take charge of a game, which is something you want in a No.3. He also, certainly in Australia, plays spin bowling well.
"If you look at our last No.3, Khawaja, that was his problem. He was fine at No.3 in Australia but had to be dropped on a lot of the tours.
"You can't have that in your No.3, your No.3's got to be No.3 wherever you go. Marnus has shown signs that he'll be able to handle subcontinental conditions if they bowl a lot of spin at him.
"The other thing about being able to play spin bowling as a No.3, it means that you've reduced one of the weapons in the opposition armoury. Because if you get a No.3 who comes in and plays quick bowling well for a few overs, as a captain you say, 'All right, we've seen that he can play quick bowling, let's have a look at him against spin'.
"You bring the spinner on and he plays them equally well, now you know you're up against it as an opposing captain; here's a guy who's likely to make big scores. Marnus has shown that he can make big scores.
"He's got probably all the traits that you want in a No.3. Whether he can get to the Ponting level … well, not many guys are that good.'
Labuschagne has boosted his Test batting average to 58.05 and passed 1,000 runs for this calendar year. He has also taken 11 wickets from 12 Tests at 37.45 with his leg-spin.
Labuschagne has addresses a recent shortfall in Australia Test sides: decent part-time bowling. He is a preferred option to former specialist leg-spinner Steve Smith and produced an utter peach of a leg-break in Perth, bowling New Zealand left-hander Mitchell Santner through the gate.
Chappell said that such wicket-taking deliveries made wrist-spinners the ideal part-timers - and made Labuschagne a blast from the past.
"It's a throwback to the Australian sides of the late 50s, the 60s and early 70s, where a lot of the top-order batsmen bowled wrist spin," Chappell said.
"I've always thought that's preferable to having them bowl finger spin because as a captain, I'd much rather be bringing a wrist spinner on as a part-timer than a finger spinner. Finger spinners, it's bloody hard work in Australia, and the extra variety of a wrist spinner is more likely to fool batsmen; even batsmen who are set.
"You play against teams like England, as soon as they see a wrist spinner, they start looking for everything. They tend to look for too much. Then you've got the lower-order plays who tend to get a bit bamboozled by the variety of a leg-spinner.
"There's a lot of conjecture about who's going to be the second spinner as the SCG if they need one. Well, why bother looking? You've already got your second spinner and that's Marnus.
"He's going to do as good a job as any other spinner I can see around in Australia at the moment that's not Nathan Lyon. He's probably more likely to take a wicket or two than any of the other fellas you've got.
"He's already in the team, forget about a second spinner. You've already got him."