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Why Marnus Labuschagne was picked as an opener in Wisden’s current world Test XI

Labuschagne Test XI
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Wisden.com managing editor Ben Gardner, Wisden.com features editor Taha Hashim and Wisden India editor Aadya Sharma picked a world Test XI earlier this week, based on both recent form and career records.

As expected, there was plenty of discussion and debate around the final picks.

One of those was the choice of the second opener alongside Rohit Sharma, who unanimously found a spot at the top of the team. The options discussed were Dimuth Karunaratne, Tom Latham, and the idea of bumping up a non-opener (Marnus Labuschagne here) to create room in a middle order packed with options.

Here are some excerpts from the discussion:

BG: Our second opener’s slot though, there was quite a bit of a debate. Kind of a philosophical debate, I guess, over what you should do when constructing these teams: do we go for a specialist opener, or do we fit an extra middle-order player. I suppose, to an extent, it depends on who the other opener is. Aadya, you went for Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne. Do you want to make the case for him?

AS: See, I do want to include him because he’s been so good recently, but that bias comes from his recent form and it has got a lot to do with his last five innings or so. That really inflates his average. But he’s been so good: averaging 60 in the last one-and-a half years. Of course, the only concern lies is in how good he is away from home, and that does cast a bit of doubt in my head as well.

BG:  If we were going for a specialist opener, my shout would be Tom Latham, who doesn’t have a great record over the last couple of years, but if I think we were picking this team at the end of 2019, start of 2020, he would be bang right back in there.

Taha, you went a different way. Do you want to let us know who you went for?

TH: I like the Latham argument. He’s also a key part of the best Test team in the world. I went for Marnus just because I was trying to fit in all those middle-order guys and he is Australia’s No.3, averages 70 [71.42] at three beyond the already incredible [overall] average of 60, and I kind of had to get him in somewhere and that’s the only place I could find. Rohit’s case is overwhelming because of what he’s done… the cases of two of the others we are talking about aren’t at that level. [Labuschagne] averages 60 in Test cricket, does even better overall at No.3. That’s how I got there.

BG: And he can probably face the new ball. I imagine we will end up with Marnus, because you end up realising who you will have to leave out to let Latham in, and that sort of becomes a silly decision in a way.

TH: The only sort of argument I was having with myself, with Marnus, was that he hasn’t played a lot of Test cricket away from home. Australia haven’t played an away Test since the 2019 Ashes. Then again, he was very good in that series.

BG: He was brilliant when he came in that 2019 Ashes and has gone to another level. He didn’t get into your team, Aadya. What do you have up against Marnus?

AS: I think the same thing Taha mentioned about the away record and how we haven’t seen enough of him. I think I was looking to somehow put in two specialist openers, so that really made it difficult to push Marnus in. But, hey, I love to watch him bat.

The panel eventually went with Labuschagne to make the following XI:

Rohit Sharma, Marnus Labuschagne, Joe Root, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Mohammad Rizwan, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pat Cummins, James Anderson, Jasprit Bumrah

You can watch the full discussion here:

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