Labuschagne: ‘I bat with it until it falls apart’
Mention the "Bat Cave" and watch Marnus Labuschagne light up.
Not Bruce Wayne's secret lair, the Aussie Test star is no superhero fanboy.
It's the workshop of Kookaburra's master bat-maker Lachlan Dinger, who has crafted the two weapons Labuschagne, a self-confessed bat "nuffie", has used to take down Test attacks in his 2019 rise to superstardom.
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That's right, just two bats used to carve out 1022 Test runs, including his three-straight centuries this summer
The secret is the extra-thick handle, made so precisely for Labuschagne that he even carries a set of digital calipers in his kit-bag to make sure any new ones are right.
Dinger calls Labuschagne picky, or "close to obsessed" about his bats.
But it's an obsession that has reaped rewards, and not one that will end any time soon.
"We used to call Marnus 'the Hurricane' because there was a point in time where he came through the factory, before we were making his bats specifically, so we would just pull them out of a standard player box and he would leave and there would be 30 or 40 bats lined up and he's whacking balls in to the roof," Dinger said.
"In pre-season he would come down and spend two or three hours - there was a day he was here for five hours - pinging balls, talking gloves and gear."
Now Labuschagne gets his own specially made bats, and Dinger, who is a bit obsessed himself by the process, is happy for the extra attention when his client comes to visit.
"A lot of the other players are pretty laid back, especially bowlers. But being one of the top batsmen in the world at the moment Marnus is pretty particular about what he wants," he said.
What Labuschagne wants is the perfect handle, specially crafted, thicker than most where it meets the blade.
The Aussie No.3 is so specific about it he can tell just from touching any of the raw bats he picks up in Dinger's workshop.
"I walked in there in and picked up a random bat and thought "that feels like my handle" and it was," Labuschagne said, holding a raw, bare bat Dinger is working on for him.
"Over time you know what you want, and when you get a different one, it just doesn't feel the same. The main factor is the hold in your hands, for me at least. It's about the ping and the handle."
Dinger was 14 when he made his first bat, a feat inspired by a "how to" video he saw on You Tube.
The son of a carpenter was "always around wood" and took to the craft like Labuschagne did to Test cricket.
He soon found himself making them for his friends and even went a step further creating his own brand called "Dingbats", even making pads, gloves, the works.
But it was his bat-making prowess which caught the eye of Kookaburra and, when Dinger was 22, they offered him a role he couldn't refuse.
Dinger helped set-up the workshop he now commands, and has such a strong affinity with Australian stars like Labuschagne they wouldn't want their bats made by anyone else.
Labuschagne sends his preferred bats to Dinger for repairs, including the stick which he used to carve out his maiden Test hundred against Pakistan in Brisbane.
Dinger replaced the handle, and Labuschagne went on to score two more hundreds with the same bat, which he'll use again in his maiden Boxing Day Test.
"I get really attached to a bat. Even if it's not the best, if the handle feels good, and the ping is good, then I bat with it until it falls apart," Labuschagne said.
"I'm not going to change at the moment. It's only for the game though. I've broken a few other in the nets, I use the nets to get the next in line bats ready, to work them up.
"But some bats you get out of the box and they ping from ball one. Lachie gave me two bats in England, I had a few hits with them. I used one in the whole of the Ashes, and I'm using the other one now."
In his own workshop at home in Brisbane, Labuschagne has tools which he's happy to use for any running repairs to his bats.
"I've got a bench vice, a draw knife, a drop saw, a sander. I've done everything. I haven't made one. I've fixed a few, if the handle was a bit thick I could fix that," he said.
"Especially maybe in my early days, I was getting standard bats. So if I wanted those unique things, like a square toe, I would cut that of."
Labuschagne even took to his some of his bats during an Australia A game in England.
"They were a little bit long so when I got out I put all my bats in my bag, went to the groundsman's shed, got a saw, a handsaw, and I sawed the toes down, then got the sandpaper and fixed them," he said.
But he's not up for making one from scratch just yet, which means more trips to the "Bat Cave".
"I've always been this way. I've always had a lot of care for my bats," Labuschagne said.
"I enjoy mucking around with them."
And even better than that, making loads of runs with them.