Marnus comes of age with inspirational ton
WHEN Marnus Labuschagne arrived for his first training session for the Brisbane Test, the troops were into him.
The batting discovery had become very much the promotional poster boy for his home Test so when he fielded a ball at training, players would pipe up with lines like "two page spread for that one, Marnus?''.
Labuschagne, who claimed his heart's desire with his first Test century at the Gabba, has that sort of innocent, hardworking nature that makes him a likely target for team pot-stirring.
But that pure, undiluted zest for the game is also his greatest asset and powers him through challenges like an eight-cylinder engine.
At a time when cricket is becoming a game featuring many senior players who are buckling under mental strain, he has found a mindset that is stimulated by challenges others find daunting.
Automatic selection though he was, Labuschagne was under more pressure at the Gabba Test than what it looked.
His fine deeds in England had created the expectation that he was an altogether better player than he was last summer.
But for all the progress he hadn't scored a Test century, so there was that pressure as well.
He was also very much a key promotional vehicle for the home Test which brings its own stresses that have made many a player wobble in the past, from Test cricketers playing in their home cities to many outstanding Australian tennis players who failed to win their own open after being sapped by the demands of a home town tournament.
The key to Labuschagne's first Test century against Pakistan is the story to his career, a trait spotted early by the national selectors - he loves the game so much he runs towards the furnace and not away from it.
Challenges, from batting as a substitute for Steve Smith at Lord's to living up to a suddenly high reputation, thrill rather than threaten him.
"The thing the struck us about Marnus was he has the desire to be a really good player,'' said recently retired selector Greg Chappell who was understood to be a key voice in his selection.
"Over the years we have seen a lot of players who had the ability to make it at the top level but they lacked the real belief.
"It's a very important asset. If you believe you can make it you are halfway there. The other thing I like about him is you can see he is learning from his experiences. He doesn't keep making the same mistake.''
"Sometimes experience is overrated. I've seen players make the same mistake 10 years in a row.''
From a coffee with Barry Richards, to shadowing Steve Smith in England, to videos and even lessons he reinforced to himself when he teaches youngsters at his academy, Labuschagne is a perpetual work in motion, tinkering, refining, remodelling.
He is the most improved player in Australia and the little fist pumps he made when raising his first century before his home audience was that of a driven man who feels his journey is only really starting.
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