Aussie cricket great Matthew Hayden says Travis Head's heroics in the third Test triumph against India proves that selectors got it very wrong by dropping him for the first match of the series. Head hit a match-clinching 49 not out off 53 balls in the second innings in Indore, to help the Aussies clinch the third Test.
The victory not only saved Australia from the prospect of an embarrassing series clean sweep defeat, it also ensured that they booked a spot in June's World Test Championship final at The Oval in London. Head's contribution in Indore was vital, and he was one of the few bright sparks in the second Test, after being sensationally dropped for the first Test.
Head's axing for the first match was described by many cricket fans as 'ridiculous', with South Australia teammate, Chad Sayyers labelling it a 'f**king disgrace' at the time. Speaking on Fox Cricket, Hayden bemoaned the fact that Australia did not pick its best side for the opening game and pondered how things might have turned out differently if they had.
“Australia just did not play their best side (in the first Test) – Travis Head should have been just about No.1 picked in that side,” Hayden said. “He was brilliant last (Australian) summer. Who cares what happens a few years ago, he was in form!
“(He) needed to play that (first) Test. And now he is showing exactly why you pick him. He has got wonderful intent to score, his strike rate is enormous. Gets that momentum and that belief in the batting change room. He is a mover and a shaker.”
Head came into the India series averaging 87.50 from five previous Tests for Australia and was the team's highest combined run-scorer for the matches against West Indies and South Africa back in Australia. However, it was the left-hander's meagre form overseas - where he averaged less than 22 - which ultimately saw Head overlooked in favour of Matthew Renshaw and Peter Handscomb in India.
With Renshaw making scores of 0 and 2 in the first Test, Head was recalled for the second Test in Delhi where he made 12 in the first innings while batting in the middle order. He was then forced to open in place of the concussed David Warner, top-scoring with 43 runs off 46 balls before enjoying another impressive knock at the top during the second innings in Indore.
Former Aussie Test star Brad Haddin said Head showed great maturity to patiently see out the lethal spin from star India duo Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, before he took the attack to the home side to get Australia across the line. “He was five off 24 balls,” Haddin said. “Then he trusted his technique and then he accelerated.”
Head's efforts with the bat amid treacherous conditions in both the second Test in Delhi and third match in Indore were enough for fans to agree with Hayden's assessment. Many fumed that the 29-year-old batter had been dropped in the first place and insisted that selectors had a lot to answer for after Head's emphatic statement.
A huge few minutes in Travis Head’s career. Absorbed over half an hour of relentless pressure then smacks a couple of boundaries and a huge six. Great fella, very happy for him. #INDvAUS pic.twitter.com/4WmNjR9FnI
— Adam Collins (@collinsadam) March 3, 2023
Heads should roll for whomever decided to drop Travis Head for the first test. #AUSvIND
— Ashalenko (@Ashalenko) March 3, 2023
— Sam (@sammytee90) March 3, 2023
It was such a bad decision to drop Travis Head for the first test
— Julio Dos Santos (@amiliov) March 3, 2023
On the third day, 2 innings, batting last on a minefield. That is a brilliant innings from Trav and Marnus. Never, ever drop Travis Head again #INDvsAUS
— Ryan Fitzgerald (@FitzySA) March 3, 2023
Australia hoping to end series on a high
The Aussie players now turn their attentions to the fourth Test at the 132,000-seat capacity Narendra Modi Stadium, which gets underway on Thursday. The Aussie squad is flying to Ahmedabad on Monday without captain Pat Cummins, who is expected to miss his second match in a row after flying back to Sydney to be with his ailing mother in palliative, who's been placed in palliative care.
Wicketkeeper Alex Carey said the side was immensely proud of securing what was only Australia's second win from their last 17 Tests in India. He says even though the Aussies can no longer reclaim the Border-Gavaskar trophy, leaving the subcontinent with the series squared at 2-2 would be an incredible achievement.
"I think the resilience after the first two games where it didn't go to plan, but we played good periods of cricket, we had opportunities to win so we never lost confidence in that. It is one game over here and we want to back that up and finish this series off in a really positive way.
"If we can win two Tests over here, we know how special that will be. So we're excited, we were happy with the result but we're still focused that there's another game to go."
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.