Uproar over baffling Travis Head move ahead of India Test

Despite being Australia's leading batsman over the summer, Travis Head has been dropped for the first Test against India.

Travis Head gazes upwards during a nets session.
Travis Head has been dropped for the first Test against India in a move that has surprised many fans. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Batsman Travis Head has sensationally been dropped from the Australian side roughly half an hour before the first Test against India was due to get underway. Australia won the toss and will bat first in Nagpur, with Head being listed as 12th man in a major shock to fans around the world.

Head was Australia's leading run-scorer during the two summer Test series played against the West Indies and South Africa in Australia. Most had considered Head a walk-up start after his impressive performances at home, however the 29-year-old was overlooked in favour of Matthew Renshaw and Peter Handscombe.

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Off-spinner Todd Murphy will make his Test debut in India after playing just five first-class matches, accompanying Nathan Lyon as a specialist spinner on an Indian pitch expected to be particularly spin-friendly. Australia were certain to make some changes with the likes of Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc both sidelined with injury, however few expected Head would be the one to make way.

There was some speculation that the pitch in Nagpur, which appeared to be prepared to favour India's bowlers against the visitors' bevvy of left-handed batsmen, could have been behind the surprise selection move. Despite being among Australia's best at home, Head's overseas average of just 21.69 left his position vulnerable.

Handscome and Renshaw were both favoured as middle-order batters, despite Head averaging more than 50 in Tests since the 2021-2022 season. Australia's selection of two off-spinners marks the first time the Test team has done so in 35 years.

This tour is Australia's fifth to India in the last 19 years but they have won just one Test match there since - in 2017. However, Australia head into the first Test as the world's No.1 ranked team after losing just one match since Pat Cummins became red-ball captain in November 2021.

India will be without injured quick Jasprit Bumrah and matchwinning wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, who was seriously hurt in a car accident in December.

Australian cricket great Adam Gilchrist bullish about India chances

Australian Test great Adam Gilchrist believes Australia can emulate the 'golden generation' team and breach what Steve Waugh often referred to as the 'final frontier'. "There's not going to be anything easy and it's not going to be a walk in the park, but it is their best chance and I expect them to do really, really well," the Fox Cricket talent and commentator told AAP.

"The balance of their squad and how experienced the team is now is important."

India captain Rohit Sharma and Australian captain Pat Cummins pose with the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
Australia will look to win a Test series on India soil for the first time since 2004 when they take on their rivals for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Gilchrist pointed to similarities between this team and the 2004 squad having recent experiences playing in Asia. Australia claimed a tense 1-0 victory in Pakistan last March and drew 1-1 against Sri Lanka across two Tests in Galle in July.

"They've had a number of tours to subcontinental countries to gain and learn from and that was what held us up in 2004," Gilchrist said. "We were very well planned and prepared due to the experiences we had, both positive and negative, previously in the subcontinent.

"This group of players has built up that bank of knowledge and the skills that they have, so they have a very good chance of winning."

with AAP

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