Australia's top-order Test batter Marnus Labuschagne is excited by the prospect of facing premier India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, a battle which he calls "game of chess" during the four-match Test series starting next month in Nagpur.
During the epic 2020-21 series in Australia which India famously won 2-1 at the Gabba, the battle between Ashwin and Labuschagne was one of the huge talking points in the build-up to the series.
In Australia, Ashwin removed Labuschagne twice in six innings before the former missed the Test at the Gabba. Now, the four-match series, which starts on February 9 in Nagpur, will also mark Labuschagne's first Test tour of India, a country where he made his ODI debut in early 2020, and his duel against Ashwin will again be a huge talking point.
"Since then (the last series) I've already started thinking. I've changed some of my game because of what I've heard about Ashwin and how he bowled to me. I've adapted my game to try and foil a few of his ideas and ways he goes about it, so it's going to be a lovely game of chess and I can't wait for it," Labuschagne was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
Labuschagne is currently playing the Big Bash League (BBL) for Brisbane Heat following the end of the Test series against South Africa, which Australia won 2-0. Australia are set to have a brief training camp in Sydney towards the end of January and are scheduled to arrive in India just seven days before the opening Test in Nagpur.
"People think, right now it's Big Bash then you start thinking, but the thinking happens way ahead. You start processing everything in your mind, you go through every scenario of what bowler you are going to come across.
I've already thought about my plans so now it's just about executing piecing the puzzle together and making sure the puzzle is ready when it's game time. That's the key, and that's how all preparation happens," he added.
Labuschagne will play a key role for Australia in the Tests against India alongside Steven Smith and the right-handed batter remarked that the latter's experience of playing previously in India will come in handy.
"We're always talking about that game and what's to come and how we're going to go about it. Think the important part is that once we get there, we've already gone through all the scenarios and that's where his experience and a lot of the other guy's experience will become very helpful."
After the Tests against India, Australia potentially have a World Test Championship (WTC) final to play in June, where India could be their opponents again at The Oval, ahead of the Ashes. "Can't wait, so excited for the next 10 Test matches.
We've played really well, people know we are very good at home, very tough to beat but the challenge we have going two away series in a row, that's going to be awesome. I can't wait for the challenge against spin in India and can't wait for the challenge of Bazball versus Ronball," concluded Labuschagne.