SYDNEY: Australia batsman Marnus Labuschagne has had to devise an innovative way to get some practice and stay busy with cricket currently shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic and is facing throw-downs with a taped-up tennis ball.

The 25-year-old has shown his penchant for batting for long durations during his nascent Test career and was named as one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year for a brilliant 2019.

Labuschagne made an ina­u­spicious start to his Test car­eer in late 2018 but made the most of a late call-up in last year’s Ashes series to cement a place in the Test side.

Australia’s Test captain Tim Paine said last week that amid the lockdown he was worried for someone like Labuschagne, who enjoys batting for long hours.

Labuschagne said he was missing batting but had found a way to practise.

“I’m lucky enough that I’ve actually got one of my best mates living with me at the moment. He’s in isolation with me. So me and him are getting a few throw-downs, and doing a bit of training,” Labuschagne told the Austr­alian media on Thursday.

“That’s about as much cricket as I’m getting ... a taped-up tennis ball in the backyard with a dog thrower.

“I’m playing a little bit of tennis, where it’s allowed with the isolation rules, to get my fitness in. And I’m doing gym, so there’s a lot of stuff to stay on top of.”

Labuschagne made his Ashes debut as the first concussion substitute in Test cricket and finished the series as Australia’s best batsman behind Steve Smith, having scored four successive half-centuries.

He then smashed 896 runs in five Tests against Pakistan and New Zealand over the Australian summer and is currently third in the Inter­national Cricket Council’s rankings behind Smith and India captain Virat Kohli.

Labuschagne averages over 63 from 14 Tests and has scored four hundreds and eight fifties.

The break from cricket has given him the time to reflect on what he has achieved in the past year but he cannot wait to start playing cricket again.

“I really hope that it all turns quickly and that we get on top of this virus and get back playing and see not just cricket, but live sport,” he said.

“I don’t know how long away we are from getting crowds back in grounds, but I think our first objective is to get sport back on television.”

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2020

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