Virat Kohli is chirping. He encourages the crowd to join him. He waved his hand at them and then told them to raise their voices. At the right command, the crowd responds. Travis Head Still can’t quite do anything mediocre, and Australia are three down. There is a competition going on.
Regardless of the nature of the surface, the head’s methods have resulted in bursts of attack on the powerplay. Here, there are more reasons for him to go hard. Australia are conscious of not giving control to India when their spinners come on.
Six weeks ago, Head was at home in Adelaide. Nursing a broken armAs he watched the Australian top order collapse against sustained odds in an efficient pace attack in chennai. Australia were properly under the pump when the spinners arrived. Anything from there was just an attempt to limit the damage. Here, in the World Cup final, Head was not going to be guided in the same way.
So what will he do? He decided to be bold and faced India’s bowling frontman Mohammad Shami. That man can do no wrong. Match after match, he came forward, talked the ball, coaxed it to do his bidding. Shami has already dismissed David Warner and started bowling with fire.
At the other end, Jasprit Bumrah got the crowd excited by punching Steven Smith with a deceptive cutter. At his best, Bumrah is able to get into batsmen’s heads, making them second-guess his approach. Here, Bumrah does not hide his plans. He means business. He is going for an all-out attack.
As a batter, the situation can leave you in two minds. At this point Head decides he needs to step up the game. It’s risky, no doubt, but since Head believes in his approach and plays a game without half-measures, it feels like a risk worth taking.
Maybe it’s confidence in form, though at that point, he scraped ten off just 23 balls. It’s only the tenth over, and another wicket could really open the floodgates. But the head seems restless. He dabs a nip-backer from Shami into wide slip and short third four. He played it really late; He let the ball do its thing, going back. The bowler has no idea of the shot until the head brings his bat down. It gets him going. Shami is going full and slow now. The head bludgens it down to the ground. Suddenly, he is up and running.
That’s all it takes to fire him up. This frees him up to go on the attack. And since India are attacking, their margin for error has shrunk to such an extent that a half-decent hit on the ring is almost guaranteed to pay full price. The head, however, does not measure half. He is following them.
Kuldeep Yadav slog sweeps the head clobber over deep midwicket to shock the crowd which was bubbling moments earlier. Head knows a thing or two about crowd silence. He did it in the WTC final against India at a packed Oval in June, running against an attack in the afternoon session that was briefly shut down. When India woke up and realized that getting smaller in size was the way to go, he smashed a hundred on the opening day. He’s doing something similar now, slowly, after a somewhat iffy start.
Three nights agoIn Calcutta, Head took the attack to a small chase by the South African pacers, thus. Warner fueled Australia’s start that night. Here, Head made a bold move. You didn’t realize how, but when India considered a better plan against him, he picked up a fifty. Meanwhile, Marnus Labuschagne moves quietly into the background, playing risk-free cricket, milking the singles and making sure he belongs there.
The head is not a pleasing definition to your eyes. At the same time, he is not ugly. He has a unique approach somewhere between artist and art. A predator, prey to loose delivery, pounces at the slightest sniff. He did this immediately to Bumrah when Rohit realized that the spin would not be as profitable as he expected, especially under lights.
Head whips Bumrah through midwicket and follows it up with a wallop down the ground. They are boundaries in the score book but a crushing blow to the bowler’s pride. Even for a bowler like Bumrah, that kind of injury can hurt. And as the full ball is sent, Bumrah falls short trying to pull it. Only the chief is fully aware. He stays upright and pulls nails.
You go “wow” when you see the scorecard! Here he was struggling to middle the ball early on, perhaps a bit too sharp. And then at the slightest hint of India’s mistake, he finds his gears and is moments away from a century in the World Cup final. It can’t be sweet, considering she almost didn’t make it here. Until the night before Australia’s squad was announced, he didn’t know if he would be ruled out with a broken hand.
‘Travis Head has matured in the last two years across all formats’ – Tom Moody
The Australian opener scored 137 off 120 balls in the final against India, as Australia won by six wickets
Pat Cummins admits to having a sleepless night at the prospect of seeing Head Miss Bass. But his relief knew no bounds when chief selector George Bailey and head coach Andrew McDonald decided to take a punt.
“He had a broken finger, a broken arm for half the tournament, but it was a huge risk to have him in the team,” Cummins said in the post-match press conference. “And the medical team was great, obviously, to get him to a place where he could perform. So it was a big risk. I think we could have looked really silly if it didn’t pay off, but you have to win a tournament. The risk had to be taken.
“And Trav, the player we’ve seen in Test cricket, he’s just the epitome of what I want from a cricket team. He drives the game, he plays with a smile, he just puts pressure on the opposition and he’s “a lot of fun to be around. So, I couldn’t be happier for Trav.”
When the century comes, an isolated single that he gave up, you can’t be sure if his gesture towards the dressing room means he needs to change his gloves or if it’s a message to someone. All you know is, when he holds his hands up high and watches his teammates cheer ecstatically from the dugout, there’s a sense of a job well done.
The hunter hunted the nemesis on the biggest stage. The occasion is fitting enough to complete a chapter in his memorable year. As a batter, you dream of playing your career and winning a world title. Head won two in the space of six months. And both times, he was front and center in his team’s performance. It is the stuff dreams are made of.