Marnus Labuschagne Appreciation Post

It might have only lasted eight balls, but Nathan Lyon bowling to Ben Stokes in a domestic red ball competition is a pretty big deal to me.

When talking about the County Championship there can be a tendency to lean towards self-deprecation. A joke about teenagers facing off against players maybe beyond their best years, a viral clip of some incredibly funny fielding. What sometimes gets overlooked is the fact that amongst all of this are some of the best players in the world.

In particular, the County Championship consistently attracts genuine red ball titans. Marnus Labuschagne, Cheteshwar Pujara, Jason Holder. These are players who have thrived in the world of Test cricket and are now a free Youtube stream away from our eyeballs.

What makes this such a treat is the fact that this is a major outlier in the world of domestic first-class cricket. This is not a situation that you see replicated in the Sheffield Shield or Ranji Trophy. For a variety of reasons, be it fewer teams or quite simply protectionism, these are competitions solely for players within that country. In being an 18-team competition, the CC has both the room and desire to welcome players from all around the world.

For me though, the most remarkable thing is the way that overseas players in the Championship seem to fall head over heels in love with it. It put a smile on my face the other day seeing Marnus enthusiastically listing all the different options for England’s new-look fast bowling attack, all coming from his county cricket experiences. One of the greatest pleasures in sport will always be seeing players talking with the same joy as fans.

Of course, it’s worth highlighting the direct benefits of being able to welcome players of such quality. If they’re your teammate you get to bombard them with questions, if they’re your opponent you get to test yourself against their game. Around this time last year there was a bit of a conversation about Steve Smith joining Sussex and whether or not we should welcome it. The reality for me is that you would be foolish to turn away one of the all-time greats. A few CC games might amount to a warm up for Smith, but present a potentially once in a career opportunity for others to watch a master at work (or get him out).

On top of all that, there’s the perspective of the viewer. Getting to see these players live and in the flesh is such a privilege when you compare admission prices to that of international cricket. The reality is that it costs much more to go and watch England play India or Australia than it does to go to a day of the Championship. It allows you to watch players that you might otherwise be priced out of seeing.

The high standard of overseas player in the County Championship will always be one of my favourite things about the competition as a whole. In incredibly simple terms, I just think it’s neat.

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