Michael Clarke has boldly declared Australia could have won their Test series against India if Travis Head played in the first match. The fourth and final match petered out into a dull draw on Monday, handing India a 2-1 victory and their fourth-consecutive series win over Australia.
The Aussies showed remarkable improvement in the third and fourth Tests after they were comprehensively outplayed in the first two matches, falling into an 0-2 hole. On Monday, Head once again made a mockery of the selectors' decision to leave him out of the first match, scoring 90 to guide Australia to safety after they started the fifth day still 91 runs in arrears of India's first-innings total.
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Head was a shock omission when Australia announced their XI for the first Test, with selectors preferring Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb in the middle order. Handscomb held his own and scored runs, but the Renshaw decision flopped and Head came straight back in.
The left-hander was promoted to the top of the order for the third and fourth Tests, where he came into his own - scoring 12, 43, 9, 49 not out, 32 and 90 in the series. Discussing Head's performances on Monday, former Test captain Clarke declared it 'unbelievable' that Head didn't play in the first Test.
“Has somebody come out and said, ‘We got it wrong’ yet? Everyone came out at the time and said, ‘We made the right decision’, is it still the right decision to have not picked Travis Head in the first Test match?" he asked on Sky Sports radio.
“Being a selector is a tough gig, don’t get me wrong, but we have to admit we got it wrong in not picking Steve Smith in our Twenty20 World Cup campaign, 100 per cent we got that wrong and 100 per cent we got it wrong not picking Travis Head in the first Test match. So, no coincidence we lost both.
“We lost the T20 World Cup, underperformed, and we had every opportunity when you look at this Test series gone by, no matter how tough the wicket has been. We could’ve won the series. That’s how close it should’ve been.
“Can you imagine as well Travis Head, a senior player, he’s captained South Australia, his record in the last 12 months outstanding, No.4 ranked Test batter in the world, imagine the shock he would have got being told he’s not being picked and he’s around the group as well. Everybody would have been going, ‘What has just happened here?’. We shot ourselves in the foot.”
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Clarke said the selectors "look silly now", questioning how David Warner could possibly unseat Head in the opening role for the Ashes. “The first Test in England, how do they pick David Warner? How do they justify that if they do pick Dave Warner now?” he asked.
Speaking in commentary on Monday, fellow Aussie great Matthew Hayden labelled the decision to drop Head 'absurd'. "They missed a real trick. Coming off a great summer, a great 12 months,” Hayden said.
“There’s so many people in a change room looking at stats to make decisions and fair enough, if you use the numbers well. But an in-form player like Head after his summer should have been first picked.
"I said that straight away in the first Test match. You just don’t flirt in cricket when you have great form on the board. You carry that into different series."
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