For SRH, Head comes to the party right away

Playing his first game of the season, the Australian hammered a brilliant 62 to set his team on the path to reaching an IPL record total against MI

The mention of Travis Head can bring back troubling memories for Indian cricket fans, with his knack of hurting the national side in big finals. But on Wednesday, the Australian got a taste of how it feels to be the darling of Indian spectators, soaking in the appreciation of the Hyderabad crowd after entertaining them with a blazing knock of 62 (24 balls), striking at 258.33 with 9 fours and 3 sixes, in Sunrisers Hyderabad’s win over Mumbai Indians.

He was playing his first IPL game after 2017 but Head — and the hurt he has caused — is no stranger to an Indian cricket fan. In the 2023 World Cup final played in Ahmedabad, he had broken a billion hearts by turning a tight chase into an easy win for Australia. On a pitch where batters struggled for timing, he blazed through to 137 off 120 balls rescuing Australia from 47/3 and silencing the packed stands at the Narendra Modi International Stadium.

Earlier that year, in the World Test Championship final played in London, he had run the Indian bowlers ragged with his innovative strokeplay, taking the game away on Day One itself with 163 off 174 balls.


Head brought out his attacking self again on Wednesday, but this time the Hyderabadis were not complaining. In SRH’s record-breaking 277/3, he played a key role by setting the tone for the highest-ever total in IPL history by launching a stunning opening assault that was then built by Abhishek Sharma and Heinrich Klaasen.

It was Head’s debut for SRH after being picked up at the last auction for R6.8 crore. In his earlier IPL stint — in 2016 and 2017 with Royal Challengers Bangalore — he didn’t get enough opportunities, playing just 10 matches in two seasons.

Not among the superstars from Australia just as yet, IPL sides didn’t show interest in him thereafter. The two blazing hundreds against India in big finals, even though in different formats, made everyone sit up and take notice of his ability to play impactful innings.

His impact isn’t restricted to big matches alone. In the three-match T20I series in India that followed the World Cup, he hit 35 (18 balls), 31 (16b) and 28 (18b). In his last three T20Is in New Zealand last month, he hit 24 (15b), 45 (22b) and 33 (30b).

The Hyderabad franchise went big for him at the auction. A good international record, however, is no guarantee of success in the demanding T20 league. The challenges of the IPL are different. And same is true the other way round.

One can never be certain of a player’s value until he has actually gone out there and done what he was expected to. In that sense Head, having sat out SRH’s first game this season, showed his worth immediately.

The left-handed batter’s strength is his temperament and a smart cricketing brain. A player with a big heart, he plays the situation and gets the opposition with his game sense more than skill. He is quick to pounce on the chinks in the armoury with his improvisation, making it tougher for bowlers to bowl to him as even good balls can be hit out of the park.

Wednesday was another case in point. With Mumbai Indians blooding in their 17-year-old pacer Kwena Maphaka while giving him the first over, Head saw an opening and marched ahead. He rattled the greenhorn by converting perfectly good balls into scoring opportunities.

Mumbai Indians were left to rue a chance that Tim David spilled at mid-off but, to be fair, it was an extremely powerful hit that burst through the palms of the big Australian.

And as is his wont, Head quickly put that moment behind him and went after the bowlers, racing to a fastest-ever fifty by an SRH batter in 18 balls.

Such exhilarating strokeplay can often inspire the other batters as well. And it didn’t take long for SRH’s No 3 Abhishek Sharma to better Head’s mark by getting to his fifty off 16 balls.

“Head is one of my favourite batters, I really admire his batting. I had a great time batting with him,” said Abhishek after the game.

SRH’s move to bring Head into the XI, aimed at going all out in attack from ball one, paid off, and the Aussie executed his role perfectly.

“We were aggressive in the first game as well, that’s one thing we want to do at the top. I am pleased I could target both the off side and leg side. Earlier I would just target the leg side. It’s a great blueprint for us moving forward. You just try to sum up the conditions well. I was pleased how things worked out in the powerplay. They (MI) got so much power and experience as well. (But) With 280-odd, I felt we had enough,” said Head.