'Breaking the rules': Marnus Labuschagne at centre of ugly controversy

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·Sports Editor
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Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, pictured here in action for Australia.
Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith have both been named in Wisdon's Test team of 2021. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Controversy has erupted over Marnus Labuschagne's inclusion in Wisdon's Test team of the year as an opening batter.

The Aussie star was named as an opener alongside India's Rohit Sharma when Wisdon (regarded as the bible of cricket) announced its Test XI of the year on Wednesday.

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However Labuschagne has never opened the batting in his 18 Test matches for Australia and has played just two Tests in the last 12 months.

Labuschagne scored 91, 73, 108 and 25 in those two matches at an average of 74.25, but did so while batting at No.3.

While Labuschagne's inclusion was a result of an abundance of high-performing middle order batsmen, fans and journalists were gobsmacked that Sri Lankan opener Dimuth Karunaratne was overlooked.

Karunaratne has scored 854 runs in six Tests this year at an average of 77.63 - the third most runs of any batsman in 2021.

The Sri Lankan captain has torched the West Indies in a current Test match in Galle with 147 and 83.

“I do want to include Karunaratne 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,” Wisdon.com's India editor Aadya Sharma explained.

“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.”

Dimuth Karunaratne, pictured here after scoring a century against West Indies.
Dimuth Karunaratne celebrates after scoring a century against West Indies. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)

Controversy over Marnus Labuschagne's inclusion

Wisden.com features editor Taha Hashim felt that Labuschagne had to be in the team and opening the batting was the only option.

“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 at three beyond the already incredible average of 60, and I kind of had to get him in somewhere and that’s the only place I could find,” Hashim said.

However former Cricinfo reporter Hassan Cheema was left filthy about Labuschagne’s inclusion at the expense of Karunaratne.

"Marnus has played 2 Tests in the past 12 months," he tweeted.

"Also only ever played 2 Tests in Asia (without a 50). And that's the guy they're breaking rules for!"

And he wasn't alone, with plenty of others fuming over Karunaratne's exclusion.

Meanwhile, Labuschagne's Aussie teammates Steve Smith and Pat Cummins were also named, while Joe Root, Kane Williamson and wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan make up the rest of the middle order.

James Anderson, Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin are the other bowlers in the side, with Ravindra Jadeja named as an all-rounder at No.7.

Wisdon's Test team of the year

  1. Rohit Sharma (IND)

  2. Marnus Labuschagne (AUS)

  3. Joe Root (ENG)

  4. Steve Smith (AUS)

  5. Kane Williamson (NZL)

  6. Mohammad Rizwan (PAK)

  7. Ravindra Jadeja (IND)

  8. Ravichandran Ashwin (IND)

  9. Pat Cummins (AUS)

  10. James Anderson (ENG)

  11. Jasprit Bumrah (IND)

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