Former Australia coach Darren Lehmann has blasted selectors for dropping Travis Head for the first Test against India, while also criticising the decision not to play a practice match before the series. Head was controversially dropped in Nagpur despite being the fourth-ranked batter in the world in Test cricket, with his sub-par record in Asia a concern for selectors.
The South Australian has enjoyed a stellar few years at home in Test cricket, but struggled in Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 2022. Selectors instead went with Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw for the first Test, but the gamble backfired as Australia were thrashed by an innings and 132 runs.
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While Handscomb was one of the few Aussie batters to show some fight, Renshaw made 0 and 2. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Lehmann described the decision to drop Head 'ridiculous'.
“The hardest thing for him now is how is he going to try and stay in the side after having such an amazing two years at home," Lehmann said. "If he’s ever going to succeed it was going to be off the back of the confidence the home series gave him. It’s a really tough one for him. Obviously they had their reasons but the records of the other blokes aren’t overly flattering either apart from [Steve] Smith, and [Marnus] Labuschagne is obviously a good player of spin.”
Lehmann added his voice to criticism of the fact that Australia opted not to play a tour game in India before the first Test, instead opting to control the conditions they practiced on during their training sessions. Steve Smith earlier explained that curators had sabotaged their preparations in the past by preparing pitches for tour games that didn't mirror what would be on offer during the Tests.
But Lehmann took exception to the fact that the majority of Australia's Test players were playing T20 cricket in the Big Bash just days before departing for India. “Ideally, they should have played a tour game,” Lehmann said. “They don’t like to do that because the tour match we played last time (2017) was on a green wicket.
“But it’s still batting for a long period of times in the heat and getting used to the ball, things like that. So a tour game would have been handy ideally, but they decided to do the BBL didn’t they, which was good for the Heat because we got Marnus and Uzzie [Usman Khawaja], but maybe they needed a tour game."
Michael Clarke questions Australia's lack of tour game
Former Test captain Michael Clarke previously described Australia's decision to forego a tour game as 'ridiculous'. He added on Tuesday: “I think the bit that gets me about it all is - and we talked about it before the series started - were they as well prepared as they could be? And the general consensus, if you talk to anyone on the street, is ‘no, they weren’t.
“No practice game, no tour match, turn up ... and got dusted in a manner people are pretty disappointed about. Say what you want, they got smoked. India are a pretty good team in their country, but I just don’t think they were prepared well enough.”
Smith explained before the series: “The last time we went I‘m pretty sure we got served up a 'green-top' and it was sort of irrelevant. Hopefully we get really good training facilities where the ball is likely to do what it’s likely to do out in the middle, and we can get our practice in. We‘ll wait and see when we hit the ground. I think we’ve made the right decision to not play a tour match."
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