Travis Head changing Australian middle-order batting with 'TravBall'
Since his return, Head has scored 395 runs in the first session of a Test at a strike rate of 71.94 and an average of 49.37.
NEW DELHI: Ever since his recall to the national side in December 2021, Australian middle-order batter Travis Head has made a great stride in Test cricket.
With his attacking style of batting in which he slices and cuts at deliveries right from the first delivery, he has guided Australia to plenty of match-winning, sometimes match-saving scores.
The Indian left-handed star wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant has mesmerized players and fans alike with his fearless batting. England's new Test pair of skipper Ben Stokes and coach Brandon McCullum have redefined Test cricket under their positive, attacking, result-oriented approach known as 'Bazball'.
While Pant and Bazball have managed to make a lot of noise among fans and media, it seems 'TravBall' has slipped under the radar of many, though Travis has been developing his red-ball cricket steadily since 2021.
Travis has played 39 Tests for Australia, having scored 2,685 runs at an average of 47.10 and a strike rate of 64.23. He has scored six centuries and 15 half-centuries in 62 innings, with the best score of 175.
While these numbers are great, Travis's Test career can be divided into two phases: One from his debut in October 2018 to December 2020 (his last Test before getting dropped) and the other from December 2021 (his Test recall) to the present day.
From October 2018, the month which marked his Test debut till December 2020, Head played 19 Tests, scoring 1,153 runs at an average of 39.75. His strike rate was 49.65. Head scored two centuries and seven fifties in this period, with the best score of 161.
After December 2020, he was dropped from the Test side for a year and made his comeback in the 2021-22 Ashes series at home. Since then, Head seems to be a different Test cricketer. Since then, he has played 20 Tests and has scored 1,532 runs at an average of 54.71.
His strike rate raised to a commendable 82.45 in this period, which saw him score four centuries and eight half-centuries in 31 innings, with the best score of 175.
This strike rate is higher than the career strike rate of modern-day Australian middle-order Test greats like: Adam Gilchrist (81.95), Andrew Symonds (64.81), Michael Clarke (55.92), Steve Smith (53.77), Damien Martyn (51.41) and Steve Waugh (48.64). Even career-wise, he is just behind Gilchrist and Symonds.
Ever since his recall to the Test side, Head has seen an uptick in every aspect of his game.
He emerged as the sixth-highest run-scorer in the World Test Championship cycle from 2021-23. In this, he scored 1,389 runs at an average of 55.56 and scored runs at a strike rate of 81.80. He scored four centuries and six half-centuries during this period in 28 innings, with the best score of 175.
Though he was the fourth-highest scorer for Aussies below Usman Khawaja (1,621 runs), Marnus Labuschagne (1,576 runs), and Steve Smith (1,407 runs), he scored at a strike rate way superior to them.
All of these batters had their strike rates ranging in the late 40s to early 50s. In fact, among the players who played 10 Tests at least, Head had the highest strike rate. The highest strike rate in WTC 2021-23 was by England all-rounder Will Jacks, who had played just two Tests and scored 89 runs at a strike rate of 98.88.
Head's post-recall statistics look really great session-wise too.
Since his return, he has scored 395 runs in the first session of a Test at a strike rate of 71.94 and an average of 49.37.
He betters his stats in the second session, scoring 422 runs at a strike rate of 77.28 and an average of 38.36.
Head goes extremely berzerk in the final session, scoring 715 runs at a strike rate of 93.70 and an average of 89.37.
The 2023 Ashes has been hyped up as a series featuring the World Test Champions Australia against England, cricket's white-ball champions who have also caused changes in the way Test is played under Stokes-McCullum.
Will 'TravBall' emerge victorious over 'Bazball' and help the Aussies retain the Ashes, only time will tell.