How Head goes about mastering the conditions and opponent

Travis Head continues to be a thorn in India’s flesh

From round the wicket, all that Jasprit Bumrah offered was a hint of width while bowling his first ball of his second over, in a T20 World Cup game against Australia. And that is all Travis Head needed to slash it over point and collect a boundary. The very next ball, Head once more manufactured room. This time, Bumrah tried to follow him with an inward angle, but he hadn’t tucked him up enough. Not surprisingly, Head brought out the pull to add another four runs to his tally. Head had just negated the new-ball threat of the best all-format bowler going around.

Hardik Pandya was the next one to come in for some punishment. Curiously, Hardik decided to employ the over-the-wicket angle. It is a known fact that Head’s back foot doesn’t move across much, and it is easier for a right-arm pace bowler to cramp him for room from round the wicket. Maybe, Hardik was basing it on Plan B or C – tempting Head to employ his tried and trusted  cuts and slashes by deliberately giving him width, and to have a field set for that shot. 

Whatever was the game plan, Head won that cat and mouse game by thwacking the all-rounder for three sixes and three boundaries. Once more, every single time Hardik bowled to his strengths, Head pounced on it like a hungry cheetah.  The sequence of how Head took advantage of every poor ball on view indicates something about his ability to maximise his potential to the fullest.

The essence of Head’s game-breaking knocks over the last two years also is based on the above-mentioned maxim: Be it is his hundred in Hobart versus England, the 92 on a cracked up, green Gabba deck against Australia, his sterling efforts in the World Test Championship final, World Cup final and the 76 in the recently concluded India-Australia encounter. Unfortunately for Head and Australia, the last of those came in a losing cause. Australia also bowed out of the tournament, on the back of Afghanistan clinching a thriller against Bangladesh.

He has also made a slight technical change to his game. Justin Langer, a fellow left-handed batter, said this during a commentary stint to Cricket Australia: “He’d got really, really side on. As a left-hander, that can be a real curse because you’ve got the blind spot when they bowl short at you, and also it just takes your weight over a little bit. And his bat was coming back almost to middle and leg stump.”

With the likes of Arshdeep Singh, Mitchell Starc, Jofra Archer, Sayaan Sharif, Naveen-ul-Haq and co. succeeding versus Head in the recent times, there was an inkling that opposition teams might have chiseled out a path against the southpaw. Just that, Head is mentally very strong. Head seems to have an invisible button somewhere fitted in his brain, which helps  him to rub off the previous outcome and concentrate on the next event. Simply put, it is the  Head way of mastering the conditions and the opponent.