Travis Head innings highlights all you thought you knew - and didn't - about this Aussie

Travis Head does all he can to get out the ball's way
June 07, 2023

Travis Head is the kind of player whose Statsguru page is your friend, a launchpad into a world of surprising and wonderful discovery. Unless you're a committed Australia fan. Or a member of his family. Or, you know, you happen to cover cricket as a profession in which case, of course, you don't need Statsguru because you already know exactly what his first-class batting average is, when his birthday falls, what he averages against left-arm fast bowlers over the wicket, why he's so good against spin and how he was the youngest captain of South Australia. Of course, you don't.

Otherwise, he's the kind of player who might have hitherto existed perhaps at the peripheries of your universe of knowledge. Of course, you know he's there. Of course, you know he's in the Australian Test side. Of course, you have a vague sense that he is, or has been of late, quite important to them, though also the equally vague sense that it's happened in Australia in a timezone far, far away. Of course, you know he wears a moustache, you're just not sure - a very modern, first-world problem this - whether he's wearing it ironically, or whether it even matters.

It's not anybody's fault, least of all his. There's so much cricket on, in so many different places, with so many different players and leagues and titles to play for, that sure, on any given day you're missing the emergence of some player you should've been paying attention all this while.

So, if you do go to Statsguru, perhaps it will be of mild surprise that he's played as many as 37 Tests since his debut in 2018 (or, given it's Australia, that he hasn't played more). That is as many as Virat Kohli in that time for whom you definitely don't need to go to Statsguru. He's also already got over 2500 Test runs (yes, more than Kohli in that time). He's also now been around long enough to have 10,000 first-class runs.

Head might be the kind of player many might not take into serious consideration until they actually see him play, or, as the opposition, feel the impact of. Again, that's not on him. It's just that if you're working out ways to get rid of David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschange and Steve Smith, then there's not much bandwidth left to worry about the guy who comes in after them. (As an illustrative aside, coming into this match, Head was the sixth-highest run-getter in this WTC cycle which should stand him out, except that three of the five ahead of him are in his team).

And in case there is bandwidth left, best leave that to work out how you'll play Patrick Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and/or Scott Boland. And you're in trouble now because there's nothing left then for the small matter of dealing with the generational allround talents of Cameron Green. In short, Travis Head is the other guy in what might be annointed, by the end of this summer, a golden generation Australia side.


An unbeaten 146 on the opening day of a world title battle, a first hundred away from home, in front of what the ICC claim are the most eyeballs ever to have tuned in to a Test match - however, this might nudge Head towards a more central position in the collective consciousness.

And as he was compiling the first hundred of a WTC final, some of what you might have distantly been aware of about him would have materialised right in front of your eyes. For example, the pace of the innings, well over a run-a-ball early on, and then nearabouts that for the rest of it. You may have come across #Travball, the cute little play on Bazball, except the comparison cheapens it: he's been striking at 81 in Tests since the end of 2021, when English cricket's pregnancy of Bazball was at the end of its first trimester. Over the last two years, he's the only batter with over 1000 runs at a 50+ average and an 80+ strike rate.

Or the counterpunching, game-shifting nature of it. India were wrangling a little sense of control when he arrived and then, four boundaries in his first 12 balls and it was slipping sharply. Australia were 76 for 3 when he arrived and he's not gone yet and Australia are now 327 for no further damage. Here's the tweet to remind you why you think you've come across this one before.

What may have been a pleasant discovery is the aesthetic of his batting. He's no cliché that's for sure, not the elegant lefty the game falls so hard for every single time, nor the gritty, limited one the game can't help but grudgingly respect. It's not even clear that he operates somewhere between those two descriptions, instead finding - creating - his own spectrum.

He does very often time the pants off a shot, like the punch off the backfoot to bring up his fifty, beating deep point there for that very shot. Or the fourth of that first flurry of boundaries, flicked over square leg like he was Saeed Anwar if Saeed Anwar was born without wrists.

But sometimes he can be pure muscle, as when he cuts. Also, he can be plain disrespectful, like with that late afternoon loft over extra cover off Shardul Thakur. It was a merciless shot. The three ramps over the wicketkeeper, for a six and two fours, will arguably vie for lead highlight in the reels (the last, off Thakur again, should win, given he shaped to duck first, then decided late to sway away from a middle-stump line, lean back and ramp it instead). India should have bowled short, into his right armpit, more often early on. But even when he was evading bouncers, like this mean one from Shami, he was making it look a picture.

There's a final point to be made from those ramps though. Depending on how old you are, you may remember one of the earliest, most iconic versions played in Test cricket - Adam Gilchrist off Andy Caddick to get to his hundred at Edgbaston in 2001.

The point is there was something very Gilchristian about this Head innings, as there has no doubt been about those other game-changing hands of his. Gilchrist comparisons are sacrilege at the best of times, but evocations can't be helped. And more than in the familiarity of some shots, or the wagon wheel of his runscoring, it's in the impressions left at the end that most evokes Gilchrist: the dazed and scrambling opponents, the awestruck onlookers, Australia ascendant and the day itself, as it began cloudy and ended in bright sunshine, turned inside out, upside down in the space of mere hours.

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