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Cricketers of the year

Travis Head - The Wisden Trophy winner in 2023

"I let the game come to me, wasn't trying too hard. I wanted to be positive, and score if the ball was there."

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
15-Apr-2024
Travis Head raises his 150, Australia vs India, WTC final, 2nd day, The Oval, London, June 8, 2023

Travis Head's innings transformed the World Test Championship final  •  AP

When Travis Head walked out to bat on the opening day of the World Test Championship final at The Oval, Australia's first innings was in the balance, and the crowd, the vast majority behind India, buoyant. Moments after lunch, Marnus Labuschagne had fallen to Mohammed Shami, to leave them 76 for three.
For Head, however, there was a sense of calm. "I'd had six or seven weeks off, and I think that's sometimes the best time to bat," he says. "I was pretty relaxed. I let the game come to me, wasn't trying too hard. I wanted to be positive, and score if the ball was there."
He was true to his word. After facing four dot balls, he hit six fours from his next 12, grasping the initiative. "There was a bit in the wicket, and they were pitching it up. I got a couple through the off side, a couple off my pads. A fast start gives you an opportunity to put the pressure back on the bowlers."
Reined in a little, he reached his half-century from 60 balls, but after tea came another burst, including consecutive ramps off Shami for four and six. His second fifty came from just 46.
"It was a big game and an overseas hundred," he says. "I'd missed out in the last Test in India, getting 90. To make a hundred on day one of a massive tour was a relief."
Steve Smith was left in his wake as the pair added 285 in 67 overs. "Batting with Steve, it's very rare he'll get out on you when he's set, so you can go about your work," says Head. "The two different tempos go hand in hand, and that gives me an opportunity to express myself a little more. All of a sudden you look up, and you've put 50 on, then 100."
Eventually dismissed for 163 off 174 balls on the second morning, Head had given Australia a dominance they did not relinquish. "It was a satisfying week," he says. "Hopefully when we look back in ten or 20 years' time, when there are more winners [of the Wisden Trophy], the significance will grow. Hopefully we can win a few more."
His innings continued an outstanding run since his recall for the 2021-22 Ashes. He started that series by flaying 152 off 148 balls at Brisbane, and ended with 101 off 113 in Hobart. During the following home summer against South Africa, he struck 92 off 96 on a spiteful Gabba surface that produced a two-day Test.
"It's just been the backing, the confidence of the people around me and the support staff to go out and do it slightly differently to what I'd done in the past," he says. "It's something that comes naturally to me."
A few months later, he would revisit the feat against India, in the World Cup final at Ahmedabad, and finish with another medal round his neck.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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