Labuschagne, Australia's unlikely No. 3, learns from Pujara

I have a lot to learn from Pujara - Labuschagne (3:26)

Marnus Labuschagne talks about Australia's bowling effort on the opening day at SCG, their goal to restrict India to under 400 and his thoughts on batting at No. 3 (3:26)

Even taking into account the upheaval in Australian cricket over the last nine months, few could have imagined that their Test No. 3 at the beginning of 2019 would be Marnus Labuschagne.

Recalled without much explanation at the end of the third Test in Melbourne, it was assumed that it was largely about providing an all-round option to cover for Mitchell Marsh's struggles. That remains the case, but he has now been slotted in at first drop in a Test Australia must win to square the series.

"Definitely excited, batting three for Australia who wouldn't be excited?" Labuschagne quite rightly said of the challenge.

He can only be wished well for the daunting task ahead, particularly facing Jasprit Bumrah, but he was at least able to soak in the lessons of watching a master at work on his first day back in the side as India racked up 4 for 303, anchored around Cheteshwar Pujara's unbeaten 130 to leave them one good session of being in complete control.

"He was very classy, wasn't he?" Labuschagne said of Pujara. "His time, his patience around the crease and just the way he batted was very good and I think it's something that I personally can take a lot from. He just batted a lot of time and I think that's something he's done throughout this whole series."

While it is a surprise to see him at No. 3 for Australia, it is a position he has held for Queensland for much of the last two Sheffield Shield seasons and his average has been a couple of notches higher (35.83) than his career number of 33.17. "I've pretty much batted most of my time at Queensland at three, and it does go out in a position that I am comfortable with. It's going to be a good challenge tomorrow and one I'm looking forward to."

There is a chance, too, that he will bat alongside his state team-mate Usman Khawaja - promoted to open after Aaron Finch was dropped - who, Labuschagne said, had many of the same characteristics as Pujara.

"I've played a lot of cricket with Uzzie [Khawaja] back at Queensland and we've batted a lot together," Labuschagne said. "We enjoy batting together a lot. There is a lot of banter out in the middle, and he's definitely someone who is very similar to Pujara in that he is quite relaxed out in the middle, he has quite a calm head."

There had been as much focus on his bowling as his batting leading up to the Test, but it wasn't a great start for him when he was handed the ball shortly before tea - three long hops being dispatched through the leg side by Pujara, the sort of first-hand experience Labuschagne wouldn't have wished for. His next three overs were more respectable and he was phlegmatic about his day having undertaken a rapid upturn in the expectations of his legspin in the last six months.

"The amount of bowling since the UAE that I have done is a lot. I want to continue to improve to find that nice role that I can play to give the quicks some relief and also get some handy wickets," he said. "That takes time and I'm working as hard as I can, bowling a lot of overs in the nets. But, unfortunately, sometimes you can bowl as many overs in the nets as you want and it doesn't always directly transfer as quickly as you want into games."