Few could have predicted how Marnus Labuschagne’s Test career would take off when he was parachuted into the second Ashes Test at Lord’s as a concussion substitute for Steven Smith, but watching from the stands Sachin Tendulkar knew within 15 minutes that there was something special about him.
Labuschagne was floored second ball by a Jofra Archer bouncer but quickly recovered his composure to make a match-saving 59 off 100 balls. He went on to have an impressive Ashes which transformed into a stunning home summer which included four centuries capped off by a maiden Test double-hundred against New Zealand at the SCG.
The Cricket Monthly: How Labuschagne became mighty Marnus
For Tendulkar, it was the few moments after he was struck by Archer that convinced him he was a player who would succeed at Test level. “I was watching the second Test at Lord’s and when Steve Smith got injured I saw Labuschagne’s second innings,” he said in Sydney on Friday. “I was sitting with my father-in-law and I saw Marnus getting hit second ball off Jofra Archer and post that, the 15 minutes he batted, I said ‘this player looks special’ there was something about him.
“His footwork was precise; footwork is not physical, it’s mental, if you aren’t thinking positively then your feet don’t move. So that clearly indicated to me that this guy is mentally strong. If you are not your feet would not move.”
Tendulkar was in Sydney ahead of the Bushfire Bash charity game that will take place in Melbourne on Sunday, having been moved from the SCG due to the heavy rain forecast, as part of the fundraising drive for those affected by the devastating fires across Australia this summer.
He said did not have to think twice before agreeing to be part of the occasion after he was put in contact with Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts by Brett Lee who will be part of the Ricky Ponting XI coached by Tendulkar.
“It was a no-brainer. The moment I was asked, I was happy to come,” Tendulkar said. “You see the number of lives it has affected and not just humans, the wildlife which sometimes people don’t talk about, and that is equally important. I’m so happy I’m here in whatever possible way to support the cause.”
Tendulkar was speaking in the members pavilion of the SCG – a ground where he averaged 157 in Test cricket with an unbeaten 148 as an 18-year-old in 1992 and an unbeaten 241 in 2004 – and recalled the strong connection he has with Australia.
“Australia has always been dear to me, in 1991 as an 18-year-old I remember coming here – spent almost four months, I almost had an Aussie accent – the competitive cricket I played at age of 18 helped me a lot in my career so I have a special feeling for Australia.”
“It’s an occasion where we must enjoy each other’s company but above all not forget the cause. That is the prime reason to be here.”
The 10-over-per-side game at Junction Oval on Sunday, which follows the Australia-England T20I, will feature a host of big cricket names, alongside representatives from other sports, but Tendulkar said a shoulder problem prevented him from taking an active part although did hint he “might just pick up a bat” in the near future.
All profits from four matches played over the weekend – the Bushfire Bash, two T20Is and the BBL final – will go towards the Red Cross appeal.
Ponting XI Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting (capt), Elyse Villani, Brian Lara, Phoebe Litchfield, Brad Haddin (wk), Brett Lee, Wasim Akram, Dan Christian, Luke Hodge. Coach: Sachin Tendulkar
Gilchrist XI Adam Gilchrist (capt & wk), Shane Watson, Brad Hodge, Yuvraj Singh, Alex Blackwell, Andrew Symonds, Courtney Walsh, Nick Riewoldt, Peter Siddle, Fawad Ahmed (one more to be announced). Coach: Tim Paine