Shield comes first for the Ashes prospect Labuschagne
CRICKET: Marnus Labuschagne says he must focus on the here and now as he looks to secure his spot on the Ashes squad to face England in August and September.
The Australian selectors will be focused on Labuschagne and his Queensland teammates Matthew Renshaw and Joe Burns as they and other Ashes aspirants begin the second half of the Sheffield Shield season against ladder-leaders Victoria on Saturday at St Kilda's Junction Oval.
Labuschagne was a surprise pick to make his debut against Pakistan in the UAE in October and questions were also asked when he was picked for the final Test against India in Sydney, as much for his part-time leg spin bowling as his batting.
He scored 38 in his one innings in that game before hitting 81 in the day-night Test against Sri Lanka in Brisbane.
The right-hander may have struggled with scores of six and four against the Sri Lankans in Canberra, but he is still in the box seat to be part of the Australian middle order come the first Test, which starts at Edgbaston on August 1.
Before that there is the small matter of defending the Sheffield Shield title with Queensland and the 24-year-old is not getting ahead of himself with four matches of the regular season remaining.
"Of course any first-class cricketer in Australia wants to be part of that Ashes squad and play in England, but you just have to focus on the game that you're in now, otherwise it will catch you out," he said.
"If you are thinking about yourself that's when you get side-tracked. If you're thinking about the team and what the team needs from you on the field, that's when you are at your best."
Burns made 174 in that same Canberra Test where Labuschagne failed.
Both those two and Renshaw will need to perform in the four remaining Shield games against Victoria, NSW, South Australia and West Australia to secure a spot in the Ashes squad.
"We all want to perform, but we don't want to do that for ourselves," Labuschagne said.
"We want to perform for Queensland so we get the team winning just like last year.
"You always feel more pressure when you come off playing for Australia and what lies ahead. It's about dealing with that pressure.
"You have to forget about what lies ahead and think about right now and what's in front of you - this game, that ball, that innings.
"If you're performing well the rewards will come at the back end of that.
"Where people get it wrong is when their mind goes too far forward and they're focusing on something else and not the game they are currently taking part in."
The Bulls go into Saturday's clash with Victoria just over 10 points behind the leaders in third spot.
The Queenslanders beat the Vics at the Gabba in November, before chasing down 414 for a remarkable win against Tasmania in Hobart, where Labuschagne top-scored with 78.
"We are in a good position sitting in third and our next two games are against the number one and two teams," Labuschagne said. "It's a really good opportunity to get in a position to challenge again for the final at the end of the season.
"Regardless of the break, we are coming in with a lot of confidence as a team off two wins.
"Prior to those games we were almost at the bottom of the table and now we are within striking distance of the top."