A knock about lad from the northern Adelaide suburbs, educated at Trinity College in Gawler and starting his sporting journey with the South Gawler Lions, Travis Head played the innings of his life at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday evening, Australian time.
A late starter in the 2023 ICC World 50-Over Cup, after breaking his hand on the previous tour in South Africa, Head began the tournament with a century against New Zealand in round five and finished off in a blaze of glory, with Player of the Match performances in both the semi-final win over South Africa and in Australia’s underdog victory over the hosts on Sunday night.
In the semi-final, Head firstly has an impact with the ball. In the Proteas innings, Head’s off spinners took two key wickets, bowling Heinrich Klaasen and then having all-rounder Marco Jansen dismissed, LBW, first ball. He finished with 2/21 from five overs, including an impressive 19 dot balls.
With the bat, he changed the course of the game with a blistering 62 before being the third Australian dismissed at 106. Head dispatched nine boundaries and two sixes in this 48-ball stay, having a strike rated of 129.16.
Australia then went into Sunday night’s decider as underdogs against a previously undefeated India outfit, with the hopes of the nation riding on their coat tails.
Chasing India middling total of 240, Travis Head smashed one of the great tons in the ICC World Cup Cricket tournament’s history since this event start 48 years ago back in 1975 to lead his side to a remarkable six-wicket victory and ruin India’s cricketing dream.
In front of a heaving crowd of upwards of 90,000 fans early in the Indian innings’ Head took a match-turning catch to dismiss Rohit Sharma, then was finally dismissed for 137 with Australia just two runs shy of their target.
He batted in surges, facing 120 balls and dispatching 15 boundaries and four sixes, with all the maximums being dispatched over the square leg boundary.
With Marnus Labuschagne (58 not out from 110 deliveries), the pair produced a 192-run association for the fourth wicket – the second highest partnership in a World Cup decider – behind Ricky Ponting and Damien Martin’s unbroken effort in the 2003 World Cup of 234.
Naturally Head received Man of the Match honours for his match winning effort in the final as well.
“Not in a million years,” said Head when asked about being player of the match in both the semi-final against South Africa and the final.
“What an amazing day – just thrilled to be a part of it. Rohit (Sharma) Probably the unluckiest man in the world.
“Couldn’t imagine getting a hundred in the final – and couldn’t imagine holding on to that catch. I was a little bit nervous but ‘Marn’ played exceptionally, he was awesome to bat with.
Head now added his name to an iconic group of cricketers who have made centuries in World Cup finals.
His alumni who had delivered centuries in ICC World Cup finals are Clive Lloyd (102 – 1975), Sir Vivian Richards (138* – 1979), Aravinda de Silva (107* – 1996), Ricky Ponting (140 – 2003), Adam Gilchrist (149* – 2007) and Mahela Jayawardene (103* – 2011).
What isn’t widely known is Head has batted this way since his youth. Back for South Australia at Under 19s level, Head lead the junior Redbacks to a title in 2012/13 and is the only player in the competition’s history to win back-to-back Brian Taber medals as the leading performer in this grade.
At times they have tried to temper his swashbuckling and unorthodox approach during his career, but as Head proved on the biggest stage, extraordinary talents should be nurtured and given the freedom to explore their natural gifts.