Head: Had ‘robust’ conversations with selectors after first Test

Travis Head had “robust” conversations with Australia’s selectors after he was surprisingly dropped for the opening Test in India but believes he has shown he can find success in challenging conditions amid a hasty switch to opening the batting.
Head was left out in Nagpur despite a prolific home summer based on his poor returns in Pakistan and Sri Lanka last year. He admitted that having worked hard to adapt his game ahead of the tour, he was shocked by the decision but swiftly returned to the side in Delhi albeit the reasoning was curiously linked as much to his bowling as batting.

“The conversations were robust, I guess, and everyone has different opinions,” Head said. “But I respect the coaching staff and selectors. I have a really strong relationship with them so think that’s what made the conversations the way they went because there’s respect both ways and we are able to voice our opinions.

“It’s something I didn’t expect coming here, but sometimes that happens and thought I was able to go through that week and prepare myself for another chanceā€¦ Now it’s making the most of that.”

Head made 12 in the first innings in Delhi before edging Mohammed Shami to slip and then produced a sparkling 43 when he opened in place of the concussed David Warner. It was an innings that had put Australia ahead in the game, only for things to come crashing down on the third morning after Head edged R Ashwin.

Head’s outstanding form at home – where he has averaged 73.50 over the last two seasons – has come with a blistering approach which has seen him strike at 91.20. He struggled to replicate that in the subcontinent last year, going at 48.40 in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but was encouraged by the way he was able to counter Ashwin in Delhi where he scored at better than a run-a-ball against him during the second evening flurry.

“I was pleased with the way I was going forward and back, watching length, and a few things I’ve worked on,” Head said of his innings. “It was a small sample piece but over here small sample pieces can be a little bit of gold to hopefully push forward for the next two Tests.

“Felt like the way I played the other day was a step forward in that direction. Would have loved to have done it in the previous series, but that’s development, that’s understanding, that’s watching other teams go about it and other players and trying to learn on the go with not much experience in the subcontinent.”

“[In] Sri Lanka, I found myself sitting on the crease a little bit and probably looking more to defend and waiting to attack, whereas here I’ve come with the approach that I want to attack first and defend second”

Head feels the attack-first mantra that is now instilled in his Test-match batting also puts him in a better position defensively and it was not being able to commit to that philosophy that brought his downfall on earlier tours.

“[In] Sri Lanka, especially, when it was more spin-friendly than Pakistan, I found myself sitting on the crease a little bit and probably looking more to defend and waiting to attack, whereas here I’ve come with the approach that I want to attack first and defend second,” he said. “When I do that, and I’ve found it in Australia, my feet move better and I’m in better positions.”

With Warner having been ruled out of the final two Tests, Head is all but certain to continue to open the batting in Indore next week. While Warner was defiant about his own future when he returned to Australia, it is far from guaranteed he will have the opportunity to resume his Test career in the World Test Championship final – should Australia qualify – and the Ashes.

Whether Head is a viable long-term option remains to be seen – he appears inked in as the ODI opener heading towards the 2023 World Cup – but having been jolted by his omission in the first Test, he is more determined than ever to make himself valuable in any role.

“Honestly, after missing out in the first Test, I would bat anywhere the team needed me to get a game. I’ve always said that. I didn’t come here expecting to open the batting last innings but whether it’s opening or No. 5, I’ve got to find a way in both of them if needed for the team.”

Australia had a final training session in Delhi on Saturday before flying to Indore, which was hurriedly handed the third Test in place of Dharamsala. Mitchell Starc is expected to return to replace absent captain Pat Cummins who has remained in Australia with his seriously ill mother while Cameron Green will also be back from injury.