Travis Head will seek advice from his junior state teammates ahead of the opening Test against India in Adelaide. Head has all but been assured of a spot in Australia’s playing XI by coach Justin Langer for the first Test starting on Thursday, with one of Marcus Harris and Peter Handscomb set to miss out.
The decision between picking left-handed Harris and right-handed Handscomb may well be influenced by India spinner R Ashwin who has created plenty of problems for lefties through his career. Picking Harris ahead of Handscomb would give Australia four left-handers in their top six which may play into Ashwin’s hands who has an average of under 20 against lefties in Tests.
Former Aussie captain Ricky Ponting told cricket.com.au that the hosts should pick a team comprising of their best batsmen, regardless of whether they’re left or right-handed. “They’ve just got to pick their best batting line-up, simple as that,” he said. “Don’t worry if they’re all left handed or if they’re all right handed.”
Head, a left-hander, said the hundred Harry Nielsen scored for Cricket Australia XI against India in the tour match proves that lefties can thrive against the dangerous Ashwin. “Harry played well against him yesterday so when he gets home off the plane I’ll have a word to him,” Head said to cricket.com.au. “He’s a world-class bowler, but I think we’ve got some world-class batters as well. So I think it’ll be a good contest.”
In the practice match, Ashwin posted figures of 2/122 at the Sydney Cricket Ground with left-handers Nielsen (100) and D’Arcy Short (74) handling him well. Ashwin doesn’t boast of a convincing record Down Under – he has 21 wickets from six Tests in Australia, compared to a career bowling average of 25. His strike-rate almost doubles on Australian soil compared to when he plays in India. He took 12 wickets in three Tests in Australia four years ago as left-handers David Warner and Chris Rogers both averaged more than 50 in the series.
“I faced Ashwin a couple times in IPL before this, so don’t have much experience of playing him in Test cricket. But we have batsmen who can play spin well,” he said. “Look, it is not just about one spinner. If we play six right-handers, they will play Ravindra Jadeja who is another good bowler. I think it will be a good contest.”
Even though Langer has said Head will “definitely” play the series opener, the 24-year-old is trying to contain his excitement ahead of a possible maiden Test at his home ground. “We’ll get through the next couple of days of training, train well, prepare well and prepare to play. I feel ready to go and hopefully I’ll get the nod. Our bowlers … they’ll test us out in the next three days, which will be good. Then you can walk out in the middle knowing you’ve prepared well and are ready to go. If I can get through those guys I think I could get through anyone in the world.”
Head said Australia will look to be aggressive in their action rather than with words. “I haven’t played much Test cricket. In ODIs fielding on the boundary, it is not easy to get talkative. But I am sure we will look to play fierce cricket and look to be aggressive. Words are cheap. It is all about actions,” he said. “We will hit the lengths hard and be aggressive in the field. We will attack the ball and even when bowling defence, look to attack. We need to cut down runs and create pressure.
“When I am batting, I will try to get into the game and just look to compete. That’s what it is about – enjoying, playing with a smile and winning the contest for your team. Having seven batsmen in the side keeps you on your toes. When playing for Australia you have to be performing. There are a lot of spots on offer and lot of batsmen have been scoring runs in Shield cricket,” he said.
Talking about his form, Head said: “I am reasonably happy with my form going into this series. Ideally I would have liked a few more runs and the last couple Shield games have tested me in areas I have been working on. I am looking forward to batting on a friendlier Adelaide wicket. We have three fierce pace bowlers to prepare against, and then also Nathan Lyon. We have three days to prepare and it will be a good workout for a challenging week ahead.”