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Marnus Labuschagne reflects on the year that changed his life

While content, he is also driven by the aim of continually improving his game

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Marnus Labuschagne has rigged up nets in his backyard so that his fence doesn't get damaged, has got the dog-thrower working and taped up tennis balls to keep his hand in during isolation, but the enforced downtime of the last couple of months has also given him a chance to reflect on his rise to become one of Australia's leading players.
That evolution was rubberstamped last week when he was handed his first Cricket Australia contract and it will be at the higher end of the spectrum after his prolific Test performances against England, Pakistan and New Zealand followed by a promising move into the one-day side.
This time last year, Labuschagne remained very much on the fringes of the Test team having been recalled for the final Test against India then playing two matches against Sri Lanka - in the first of those making a maiden half-century at the Gabba. However, he was not in the XI at the start of the Ashes series in August but when Steven Smith was concussed, his career changed. In his next 15 innings, he piled up 1249 runs.
"That's probably one of the major parts in this period, just to sit back and think about everything that's happened," Labuschagne said. "It has been a really special year for me, there's no doubt about that, the way things have unfolded has been awesome. It's been about taking it all in, being happy and proud about that, then looking at how I can get better, looking at different parts of your game on field and off field that you can work on in this period to continually get better.
"For me, it's just about making sure that that I'm prepared and understand what the game requires and then to make decisions upon that. And then if that means that I get runs then that's great. And if that means I miss out then for me it's just about going back to the chalkboard and understanding my game and making sure I continue to learn from that."
It remains unclear when Labuschagne will next be able to take guard in the middle - although there are signs that Australia's season could have some element of normality - albeit without crowds - but he knows that after the level of success he has enjoyed he has become one of the most hunted wickets for opposition.
"Once you've played that initial season, any format whether its grade cricket or Shield cricket or Test cricket, people start knowing you and knowing how you play. So they come back more researched and they obviously understand your game a lot better. For me, it's about understanding what they are going to do and I also understand where my weaknesses are and my strengths are, and then continuing to improve… Obviously try and go another level up."
After his introduction to Australia's ODI side earlier this year - where he scored a maiden hundred against South Africa and averaged over 50 - Labuschagne is targeting power-hitting in the death overs as one area for development.
"There's always heaps to improve on. In one-day cricket, an area that I definitely want to continue to get better at is probably that later stages in the innings, the boundary options at the back-end of a one-day game. That's the beauty of the game. You're never satisfied with where you are. You are obviously happy with where you are, but you want to be better. You want to continue to drive yourself to get to the absolute best out of yourself."
At the moment, T20s are a distant third in Labuschagne's career with just ten matches for the Brisbane Heat. When the contracts were named, national selector Trevor Hohns said they were not looking to push him too hard in the format and Labuschagne knows that given the international schedule his opportunities may continue to be limited but he is eager to earn his stripes.
"By no means do I want to limit myself to those two formats, I definitely have the ambition to play T20 cricket for Australia," he said. "My opportunities have been minimal and with the schedule, it doesn't look like there might be too many other opportunities, but for me, it's about scoring runs in one-day and Test cricket and if I get opportunities down the road then make sure I take them."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo