Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Marnus Labuschagne and his homecoming. Labuschagne has been training in Brisbane alongside his teammates ahead of the Ashes.
Labuschagne has been training in Brisbane alongside his teammates ahead of the Ashes.
Marnus Labuschagne's preparations for a Test summer of course involve facing copious number of balls in the nets. There are also the constant tweaks that he loves making to his technique, and explaining them in detail too, like he did to batting coach Michael Di Venuto on Friday (December 3). But there's also a non-cricketing ritual of sorts that he's followed the last few years. It involves a cheat meal at his favourite Indian restaurant at Wellington Point. And it's always the same dish-“the chef's special butter chicken with spinach and cheese naan”.
Punjab Curry Clubis only a stone's throw from Labuschagne's home-ground, the Redlands Tigers Cricket Club. It's an integral part of the bustling restaurant and cafe scene the laidback seaside suburb is renowned for these days. At one point during his net on Friday, Lasbuschagne was overheard telling an Indian gentleman, who later turned out to be one of the managers of the restaurant, that he was likely to “come over” later that night. His imminent visit to the Curry Clubwas then confirmed later by Hitesh, another manager, who seeks you out on the street to reveal that Australia's Test No 3 has been a regular at their establishment since long before he became a Test star. He even remembers the time the family was over to celebrate one of the young right-hander's early highlights with the bat, a 270-odd he made against the Gold Coast.
“Marnus and his family have been coming to our place for years now. His parents were the ones who used to come at first and bring him and his sister along. They used to love the goat curry and were never deterred by the level of spice in it. Marnus wasn't really into the food till the time he had the butter chicken as a Lunch special, and he's been hooked on to it ever since,” says Hitesh.
“He calls it his cheat meal and makes it a point to come here one final time a week or so before the first Test. He'll finish his meal and say how he'll have to run it all off the next day. His next visit after tonight won't be until the summer is over,” he adds.
At times, Labuschagne is also known to hop across to Manny's next door, the Italian restaurant also owned by the same group, where his preferences rank from the pork belly to the chicken wings to the chicken carbonara in that order. These too count as his “cheat meals”.
Considering the long association he's had with them, there's no major fuss about his visits to the restaurant anymore, even if he does remain their most famous and popular customer. He's said to prefer sitting indoors when accompanied by wife, Rebekah. You do however have every chance of running into the quirky run-machine in the outdoor seating area when he's there to fulfil one of his bimonthly cravings for Indian food with teammate and housemate James Bazley during the offseason.
According to Hitesh, Labuschagne had planned to bring the entire Australian Test team over for a lunch that was to be his “shout” earlier this week when the warm-up match was still scheduled for the Redlands. The terrible weather in Brisbane though, like with many other aspects of the Ashes lead-up, ended up playing party-pooper.
Labuschagne had planned on bringing the entire Test squad to the restaurant.
Labuschagne though did get to host a major chunk of the Test squad over at his home-ground earlier in the day. That too in front of nearly 150 local fans who were mainly there to see their homegrown star, even if they didn't mind catching a glimpse of some of the other big names, including Steve Smith. The club had even put up a “Welcome Home Marnus” board with LED lights at one entry point. Unfortunately, he drove in from the other gate.
It was still quite the homecoming. The welcoming party near the clubhouse included kids and adults of all ages all with the name “Marnus” on their lips. The excitement was palpable from the moment he got out from his car. He was stopped well over a dozen times for autographs and selfies as he finished speaking to the media and started walking towards his teammates. To his credit, he obliged every request that came his way. The 27-year-old's meteoric rise in recent years was best encapsulated by how every movement of his was met with awe and admiration. Whether it was just him striding to the middle and having a chat with Smith or it was his hour-long nets session. Most discussions you could hear centred around topics relating to their idol, from their first sighting of Marnus to his best shots or how none of them would budge from the Redlands Cricket Club till Marnus was done batting.
For Chris the groundsman, who's known Labuschagne since his mid-teens, the energy that he was bringing to the Australian training session was nothing new or surprising. He's seen it all before. He talks about how the country's batting mainstay still comes to him very excitedly and tries to convince him to not start working on a pitch that's just been used for a match. Just so that he could get some centre-wicket practice whenever he's home. The best part about the pitch at the Redlands for Labuschagne in Chris's opinion is how there's always generally some grass on top of it. It's mainly got to do with the home team's strategy to prepare surfaces that suit their bowlers, since they're often undermanned in that regard. It's meant that Labuschagne gets to bat in some rather challenging conditions at the start of every cricket season, and it only bodes well for him once it's time to start training with Queensland.
Labuschagne's transformation in stature over the last 3 years has also gone hand in hand with that of the entire Redlands area. Ormiston, for example, where he owns one of his homes, was till recently considered the “salad bowl” of Brisbane, known for its farms and its abundance of fresh produce. There's been plenty of development since with houses of all shapes and sizes having mushroomed around and leading right up to Ruby Bay.
It still remains incredibly picturesque, with most houses boasting of their own boat ramps, to get their kayaks and motorboats going to get to the many islands scattered around, most of them only 20 minutes by water.
Labuschagne doesn't mind getting into a kayak either. And these days, according to his wonderful hosts at Punjab Curry Club, he doesn't mind testing the sustenance of his palette either. Much like Ormiston and Labuschagne, his tolerance for spice too has grown exponentially of late.
“We have tried to coax him into trying other items but he's steadfast on what he can and wants to eat. But he has gone from mild to medium to now asking for the ‘spicy' version of the butter chicken.”