How Travis Head worked to strengthen his biggest blind spot

As David Warner prepared to test his pain tolerance in the Adelaide Oval nets on Tuesday night, Travis Head revealed the extensive work he has put in to improve his blind spot against around the wicket bowling.

Warner is suffering from bruised ribs after a couple of heavy blows in the first Test at the Gabba, and may need the help of painkillers if he is to avoid missing three out of Australia’s past six home Tests after a groin issue sidelined him last summer.

Travis Head struggled against around the wicket bowling over the first phase of his Test career.Credit:Getty Images

Australia expect James Anderson and Stuart Broad to both play in the pink ball Test at Adelaide Oval, and to attack their left-handers from around the stumps. When Head was dropped after two Tests against India last summer, his statistics when facing balls veering into him from that angle did not make for pretty reading.

At the time he was averaging about 25 against right-arm seamers from that angle, as opposed to about 42 from over the stumps. Moreover, about three quarters of his dismissals were coming against balls moving into him.

That left Head with plenty of work to do over the past year, a process that was aided further when his initial batting mentor in South Australia, Jeff Vaughan, joined the Australian set-up earlier this year.

Alongside Michael Di Venuto, Vaughan has significantly bolstered Australia’s batting acumen – changes that were needed after Head admitted he had not been alone in getting “found out” by the likes of Broad bowling around the wicket in the 2019 Ashes series in England.

“Not just from Broady, but I think in general from bowling around the wicket,” Head said on Tuesday. “Personally, I’ve worked really hard on batting against bowling around the wicket. We got found out a little bit in England, personally and maybe as a team. I know from my personal experience over the last sort of six months, I’ve gone away and worked really hard at that, how to line the ball up.

“I didn’t change it just for this Test match. I think it’s been what I’ve been doing since probably Christmas last year. So, I’ve had the back end of the summer and feel like that has been going on for over 12 months now. So I guess since missing out in the Test series last year, I went away and worked on a few things that are so minor. You wouldn’t probably even get to pick them up though, it’s that minor.”

Head said Broad wasn’t the only English quick who’d pose a real threat with the pink ball.

“Obviously Broady is a fantastic bowler, and he’s gonna be challenging here with the pink ball,” he said, “But also [you have to be sound] in your own batting technique so you can get through other bowlers that are similar so, yeah, I’ve worked extremely hard at that and hopefully it pays dividends this game.”

Though he had the benefit of facing some tired bowlers at the Gabba, Head’s domineering century, taking just 85 balls, was an effort that took some processing for the 27-year-old to make sense of, having walked off the field in something of a daze.

“It was obviously a pretty hectic couple of hours,” he said. “I thought I was in a great space. I was relaxed, calm, consistent around my technique. And, really, I just was seeing the game come and play to how I see it and opportunities to score, and there’s probably moments when I felt like it was an opportunity to take the game down, and I did that for a period there. Then, when the new ball came, I sort of went the other way and then just tried to get into the end of the session and start fresh the next day.

Travis Head celebrates his Gabba century.Credit:Getty Images

Head said, while he never thought he’d walk off the Gabba ground with a century, he felt he was in control.

“I felt like I used the tempos really well, there were moments that felt like I was going 80 miles an hour, but there were other moments where I think I was really balanced, calm and summed up the conditions really well,” he said.

“When you swiftly score a Test hundred, and the way I probably did it, when you walk out in the position that we’re in … I never felt like I was going to walk off with 100. So, it’s a pretty surreal moment.”

Former Test batsman Greg Blewett, who had also worked with Head for the Redbacks, has noted that the left-hander is the sort of player where aesthetic observations needed to be secondary to results. “I’m not traditionally the most technical better probably going around,” Head said. “I have to drive for runs in some periods, and sometimes it won’t look pretty.

“But over the last four or five years I’ve been able to find a way to get consistent runs and that’s all my concern is, trying to be as consistent as I possibly can. There will be moments that don’t look as pretty as they could. And there’ll be other moments where I’m looking pretty good. So, there’s that balancing act.”

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