Travis Head, the 29-year-old Australian cricketer, has been surprisingly omitted from the starting XI for the first Test match against India in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series opener in Nagpur. Despite his impressive performance in the home Test summer, where he accumulated 525 runs at a high average of 87.50 against the West Indies and South Africa, he has failed to make the cut for the much-anticipated Nagpur Test.
The national selectors have instead opted for the recall of Victorian batter, Peter Handscomb, for the first time in four years. This decision has raised some eyebrows, as Head currently sits at No. 4 on the ICC Test batting rankings. Head’s batting record in the subcontinent has been a cause for concern, averaging just 21.30 in Tests in Asia since making his debut in the UAE five years ago. Moreover, he has never scored a Test century outside of Australia, and his apparent weakness against spin bowling was evident during last year’s Test tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
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The Australian team has undergone several changes ahead of the Nagpur Test, due to injuries to key players like Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Cameron Green, as well as the expected spinning conditions at the Nagpur pitch. Scott Boland, Peter Handscomb, Matthew Renshaw, and 22-year-old debutant Todd Murphy have all been included in the side.
Former Australian skipper, Steve Waugh, has expressed his surprise and disappointment at the selectors’ decision to drop Head. In a social media post, Waugh criticized the selectors for “overanalysing” the situation, and questioned how the number 4 ranked Test batsman in the world, and one of the best batsmen in the last 12 months, could be dropped. Waugh pointed out that Head also bowls better than average off spin, and stated that it was hard to believe such a decision could be made.
In conclusion, Head’s omission from the starting XI for the Nagpur Test has come as a shock, especially given his impressive performance in the home Test summer. The selectors’ decision to recall Handscomb and make several changes to the side in light of the expected spinning conditions at Nagpur remains to be seen, and only time will tell if this was a wise decision or not.