Man of the series Marnus Labuschagne is a prime example of the silver lining that Tim Paine described during the previous summer.
Now, Australia’s form batsman is ready to tackle his next big challenge.
A year ago, Paine repeatedly referenced the positives to come from the immense void left by Steve Smith and David Warner’s sandpaper suspensions.
The skipper suggested at the time that young players, including Labuschagne, would have their development accelerated by being exposed to the highest level.
Sure enough, Labuschagne is now celebrating a stunning coming-of-age season that featured four Test tons and man-of-the-series honours after Australia’s 3-0 thumping of New Zealand.
Labuschagne’s mountain of 896 runs represented the biggest haul by any Australian in a five-Test home summer. It bettered Neil Harvey’s 834 against South Africa in 1952-53, Don Bradman’s Ashes series of 810 runs in 1936-37 and 806 runs in 1931-32, plus David Warner’s 2019-20 haul of 786 runs.
The 25-year-old wouldn’t have made his Test debut in the UAE during 2018, nor would he have been a contentious recall for last year’s SCG Test, if not for the absence of Smith and Warner.
“We spoke a lot about it last year, of there being a silver lining. The guys who got an opportunity with what had happened, who probably wouldn’t of (if Smith and Warner were available),” Paine told reporters.
“One of them is man of the series and Travis Head’s still averaging 45, maybe more.
“The guys who have come back, they have come back better players, and our whole group and organisation has learned a lot.
“To be part of swinging that around, is really satisfying.”
Paine and Warner were both full of praise for Labuschagne.
“A lot of people talked about his first-class stats (when recalled a year ago),” Warner said on the ABC.
“When you go up a level, you have to shift up a gear as a player, and he sure did that. He’s got a bright future ahead.”
Labuschagne flies out on Thursday for his next challenge, an ODI debut on Australia’s tour of India that begins on January 14.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity, if I get it, to play there,” the right-hander said during the post-match presentation at the SCG.
“It’s been an amazing summer … I’m just loving the journey. It’s a lot of fun to be part of the Australian set-up.”
Australia’s next Test assignment is a two-match tour of Bangladesh in June.
“Every time you go to the subcontinent, the series are very, very hard to win,” Paine said.
“All reports from the guys who went there (and had a 1-1 draw with Bangladesh in 2017) is that it’s a really, really challenging place to play.
“Particularly the time of the year we’re going.”
RISE AND RISE OF LABUSCHAGNE
* During Smith and Warner’s ban: 210 runs at 26.25 (five Tests)
* Since Smith and Warner’s return: 1249 runs at 83.26 (nine Tests)