Form batsman Travis Head paid tribute to captain Pat Cummins for handing him a licence to thrill in his coming-of-age summer, as Australia eye world domination with the same bold approach which annihilated England.
Having restored their fortress at home after last season’s shock defeat against India with a 4-0 victory, Cummins’ men are aiming to emulate the feats of the great Australian sides of the 1990s and early 2000s, who were nigh on unbeatable at home and regularly won abroad.
Their next mission is the three-Test tour of Pakistan slated for March, Australia’s first there since 1998, followed by a winter assignment in Sri Lanka, where a Steve Smith-led side was whitewashed 3-0 in 2016 just months after reclaiming the No.1 Test ranking in New Zealand.
While Head will bed down his strategy for success in Asia in the coming weeks, his preparedness to attack on bowler-friendly tracks was handsomely rewarded, finishing the campaign with the unlikely dual accolades of leading run-scorer and player of the series.
He joins modern greats Ricky Ponting, Steve Smith and Mitchell Johnson to have claimed the gong in successful home Ashes.
Travis Head had a coming of age Ashes series.Credit:Getty Images
As impressive as the South Australian’s rapid fire 152 was in Brisbane when he capitalised on the industry of the top order, Head’s counter punching first-innings century in Hobart was arguably the best of his career. He changed the course of the game after the hosts were reeling at 3-12 on a green top.
Head’s hero-or-zero approach has the potential to blow up in his face with ugly dismissals, but he was reassured by his captain there would be no repercussions, no matter how cringeworthy a fashion he got out. Cummins would even cop a wild slash to third man, Head said, referring to a dismissal in Perth against New Zealand two seasons ago.
“You look at some of the dismissals in this game from high-quality batters, any outs are a bad out,” Head said. “I understand that, and I think that’s one thing that’s in my game. It’s like, “okay, if I nick it – it’s not going to look great”.
“Pat’s given me the confidence to go out and play … he goes, “look, if you’re taking the game on and get done at third man a couple of times and you’re playing the right way”, it’s no skin off his nose and he backs me in 100 per cent.
“And that probably gave me the confidence going into this series to be myself and play the situation as I see it – and you look back and go “okay, well little moments, conversations you look back at in a series and go that might have changed something”, and I think that definitely the confidence he’s given me is the blueprint for going out and performing.”
Head’s enterprising strokeplay was suited on lively surfaces where it was important to score quickly over playing to survive before the inevitable unplayable delivery arrived, but a rethink may be needed on flatter tracks when there is a greater emphasis on batting for time.
The Australians are unsure what conditions they will confront in Pakistan, but figures in the game with knowledge of cricket in that region do not believe pitches will be raging turners, though they will offer assistance to spin at the back end of their dry season.
“I’ll look at what the expected conditions may look like over the next couple of weeks and know what I have to do, mindset-wise to prepare for that,” Head said. “I’m hearing that conditions in Pakistan can be obviously challenging -they’ve got a lot of fast bowlers, whether it’s green and seaming around or spin-friendly.
“I’ve heard different things from different people, nobody’s travelled there for a long time. So like any tour, same in Sri Lanka, you look at ways you may be able to counteract. Obviously, Australia we know so well and that planning probably didn’t go as hard or as in depth.”
Head revealed No.3 Marnus Labuschagne was the catalyst for Australia’s dashing strokeplay on the first day. Cummins wants his team to play with the same freedom overseas.
“I thought the way Marnus, Trav Head, Cam Green took on the game was a really good template for any conditions that are really foreign,” Cummins said.
“We can be the type of team that are brave enough to take that positivity overseas if we need to. I think that puts us in a great place.
“I’m really excited about the upcoming Pakistan tour. We have played really well here in Australia, now it’s up to us to take that overseas.”
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