During his short career, Travis Head has shown enough indications of being, if not literally the head, at least the neck or shoulder of the Australian batting order. It was quite an affront to his skills to be pushed down to the brink of the tail…..
It is not just that the last name is tantalisingly amenable to various head-lines. Well, there we go.
Rather, it is indeed true that during his short career, Travis Head has shown enough indications of being, if not literally the head, at least the neck and shoulders of the Australian batting order. It was quite an affront to his skills to be pushed down to the brink of the tail.
One is tempted to add that it is difficult to make head and tail of the strategy.
There, that will be all in this article in terms of wordplay.
Also read: The Importance of Day 1
Head made his entry into Test cricket with that fighting 72 at Dubai which enabled Australia to steal a thrilling draw against Pakistan. Mohammad Abbas and Yasir Shah are not exactly the easiest duo to negotiate, and Head showed a lot of resolve in blunting their offerings as Australia held on to save the Test.
In the second innings at Abu Dhabi, he was promoted from No 5 to No 3, sandwiched between the underperforming Marsh brothers. He showed quite a good form in getting 30-odd before for the second time in the Test he was undone by a brilliant ball from Mohammad Abbas.
When we look back at the second day’s play at Adelaide, it irks us to find that the young man has been shifted back down the order, to No 6, and has had to play his innings mostly by shepherding the tail.
Head looked perfectly suited for this demanding role, but that precisely underlines his claims for a couple of spots higher in the order.
No, I won’t use the phrase ‘a good head on the shoulders’. But Head did show a lot of maturity in patiently avoiding anything unnecessary outside the off-stump while latching on to the loose deliveries. In short, he showed plenty of temperament.
With Shaun Marsh, Aaron Finch and Peter Handscombe all falling to avoidable strokes, Marcus Harris being given a lesson in high-quality spin by Ravichandran Ashwin, and Usman Khwaja taking caution to the other extreme by digging himself into a hole, it was Head who remained in control and mixed prudence and aggression in excellent proportions. The way he rocked back to punch Ashwin the moment he pitched short, and the manner in which he creamed a rare over-pitched delivery from Ishant Sharma through the off-side spoke volumes about his temperament.
One wonders if it would have been better if Head had batted alongside Khwaja in the early middle-order, ensuring that wickets were not lost and runs did not come to a standstill either. Perhaps Australia would have been better served if they had not fiddled with the youngster’s batting position yet again.
It is not only the few Test matches under his belt that speak for Head. He has been showing plenty of pluck and adaptability around the world in recent times. After a very good home season for South Australia, he got a few decent scores for Worcestershire without setting the county grounds on fire. Later, he excelled in India for Australia A and, when rewarded with a Test spot in UAE, established himself as one of the better batsmen in the side.
Especially in the absence of Steven Smith and David Warner, he has all the potential to be an asset in the Australian outfit. And in such circumstances, he is being wasted at No 6. Unbeaten on 61, with the tail in, there are chances of being stranded with a milestone in the offing.
Oh yes, it may be taboo to speak of milestones if you are an Australian, but every young cricketer knows the value of fighting hundreds and covets them. However, even if we ignore the personal angle, two slots higher in the order could have given the side the opportunity of getting more runs out of him and for the rest of the batting to bat around his stolidity, in what promises to be a relatively low-scoring encounter.
If it was Cheteshwar Pujara’s resilience in the first innings, it has been Head’s immovable presence in the Australian essay that has kept the game in the balance. The cricket has been riveting, and even more so because the competitive aspect has been kept alive.
One has to wait and watch how far the young man can carry his individual score forward and whether he can help the hosts take the lead. But, in any case, it has been a superb innings and perhaps the team management needs to relook at the batting order after this.