IPL 2024: From RCB to SRH – Travis Head is enjoying his journey, one blistering knock at a time

 - Sakshi Post

New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) When you go back to the 2016 Indian Premier League (IPL), the Royal Challengers Bengaluru had exceptional firepower in Virat Kohli -- who took the Orange cap and smashed four centuries, AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle and Shane Watson, despite them losing to Sunrisers Hyderabad. Amongst them was a young Australia left-handed batter Travis Head, who had made his T20 international debut in January. Head would remain with RCB in 2016 and 2017, making 205 runs in 10 matches, before dropping out of the IPL bandwagon. But the learnings he had from being at RCB are still etched in his mind.

“It feels like a long time ago and I hadn’t understood myself much around off-field or game stuff. I saw how ABD, Virat and Gayle went about, as every guy had a different thing which made them great and stand out from others. AB’s match day stuff and understanding of the game were incredible. Virat’s preparation was second to none and the way Chris performed on match day was just outrageous, as he would go out and dominate.”

“So each guy had those things that I sort of drew upon and understand the blueprint. I probably went away for understanding and putting the work in where my game needs to be when I am a bit older and where I need to be. So, I had to learn a fair bit and learn off those guys and went away,” said Head in a virtual interaction with select journalists on Friday.

Cut to the present, and Head is currently the most dominant batter of IPL 2024, after being picked by Sunrisers Hyderabad at last year’s player auction. It was a memorable 2023 for Head, who became Player of the Match in the final of the 2023 World Test Championship and Men’s ODI World Cup finale, coming up against India on both occasions.

In five matches of IPL 2024, he has smashed 235 runs, at an average of 47, and a gigantic strike rate of nearly 200, including hitting 28 fours and 12 sixes. More importantly, he’s given SRH the much-needed boost by taking charge of scoring heavily in the Power-play, which has propelled them to claim the record of the top two highest scores in the IPL. In SRH making a gigantic 277/3 against Mumbai Indians, Head was one of the three batters to slam a fiery fifty. In SRH bettering it by making 287/3 against Royal Challengers Bengaluru, Head stunned everyone with his aggressive strokeplay by slamming a fiery 102 off 41 balls.

“It’s dependent on where you are playing and how you structure your batting line-up. Here at the Sunrisers, the aim has been to take control of the Power-play and be aggressive in the Powerplay. Myself, Abhi (Abhishek Sharma) and Klass (Heinrich Klassen) are able to do that. Every team has got different identities and different gameplans and ours is to try to make the most of the Power-play with the kind of batting we have got.”

“I feel like I've come back to this IPL now, which is a tough competition. So being now a lot older and having experienced a lot of IPL and international cricket, I feel like I'm in a better state and that's why the performance I guess has been there. It's not always guaranteed that I will get the runs. But it's been really enjoyable,” added Head.

In the time Head was away from IPL, by his admission, Test cricket was the emphasis and the urge to excel at the international level. But then he lost his Australia contract and went back to playing domestic cricket for South Australia, with his parents, wife Jessica, former SACA general manager Tim Nielsen, plus his national side skipper Pat Cummins and coach Andrew McDonald providing him with the necessary support.

With Cummins giving Head the backing to play his aggressive style of cricket and working hard on his technique, the left-handed batter was back in the national reckoning by earning a recall for the 2021 Ashes and blasted a wonderful century at The Gabba, signalling that he was back again for the long haul at the international level.

With Head continuing in the same vein in IPL 2024, after giving last year’s tournament a miss due to his wedding with Jessica, he feels a lot has changed in him from when he debuted in the tournament in 2016.

“A lot of things have changed (from 2016 to now). I just feel like there's a lot more experience and understanding around my game and there's probably a lot more belief around what I can achieve or what I can do. There are always doubts and things you go through in mind, but seven or eight years have passed and achieved a few things in international cricket that you can draw back on and say, ‘I am not the worst player in the world’.”

“So back then, I didn't have the blueprint or runs behind me to really go out and do my thing. I feel like I still had some really good performances when I was here last time and I definitely drew back on them and that experience of being in IPL for two years with RCB. It was just a bit of a whirlwind sort of, as I was 22 or 23 and playing with the players like ABD, Virat and Gayle. I didn't feel like I really fitted in terms of my game at that stage, but yes learnt a lot,” he added.

With him and Abhishek forming an utterly terrifying opening partnership, with Klaasen, Aiden Markram, Nitish Kumar Reddy and Abdul Samad to follow, SRH have been successful with their slam-bang approach so far. The only time SRH had to resort to Plan B was against Punjab Kings at Mullanpur, where Nitish’s late counter-attacking knock helped them reach 182.

“We've always talked about leading into the games about trying to adapt to the conditions as quickly as we can and trying to communicate that throughout the batting line-up. It's not gonna come off every single game, like you look at the game against Punjab Kings and (Kagiso) Rabada bowled the first over really well. I wanted to get on strike and try to basically attack every single ball as there was a bit of swing.”

“It was probably in the bowlers' side of things at that stage, so I wanted to try to take the game in a different direction. That's taken some risk, but ultimately we're trying to basically adjust to the conditions as quickly as we can. At the same time, we are trying to maximize that power play. So I guess the other day it felt like a really nice wicket (in Bengaluru) that we could play good shots against good balls.”

“Sometimes if it's to the bowlers' advantage, we're gonna have to take more risk to try to get them off their line and length. A lot of conversations are going on and it's not just going out and trying to bash it around everywhere. We want to have a positive mindset, but I think we're making really good decisions about where we try to hit the ball and who we try to attack. So, a lot of conversations around it and it's working really nice at the moment,” elaborated Head.

In his preparation for matches, Head admits his inkling is towards having that balance to be refreshed and ready to hit the ground running. “So, I don't deep dive into a lot of stuff as I want to become natural. Lucking, we've played a lot of these guys around the world, and you see a lot of familiar faces.”

“If there's someone, I don't know I sort of go to Abhi (Abhishek Sharma) or guys who have faced them. Indian players that have played against these guys, so I sort of try and tap into conversational stuff. I don’t like to sit around and watch a heap of footage or anything and try to stay pretty relaxed about things.”

Criss-crossing through India for playing in the IPL can get a little intense, but Head believes SRH have been fortunate to have slightly bigger breaks to deal with the fatigue factor. “It can sometimes be good and bad because one less day would be nice to chill for two days, then you get back up and get moving again. Every guy has different things, and I think we've been really good in this environment.”

“With training, there's no real heavy structure around things. It's very relaxed and one can very much get what you need to get done. There's a big onus on doing what you do and backing each guy to know what they need to be doing. But a travel and chill day maybe with around a golf here and there.”

“Plus, a couple of nice meals at restaurants or in a hotel with some of the guys and then getting down to training and having two really good training sessions before a game and sort of doing the process over the last couple of weeks. It seems to be working and the team is in a great mindset at the moment, obviously winning helps, and the vibes are really good.”

What has also worked for Head is having Cummins and head coach Daniel Vettori in the SRH setup, two individuals who know him very well from the Australian setup, making his second coming in the IPL a smooth ride so far.

“From my side, it hasn’t changed much as moving environments can be hard as an international player, and trying to fit into the environment which is something that I haven't had to worry about because I guess the captain and coach know how I'm gonna go about things,” said Head.

“They give a really good backing, understanding and with having some performances for Australia, I'm in the good books of them and they would back me if I had a couple of low scores. In different environments, you may feel a little bit more pressure to show your talent off and wanting to impress so that hasn't been needed nor that it really should be in any environment where you feel like that.”

“But definitely here, these two are class and I felt like not only me, but also about the young Indian players, there's been no real pressure to excite or try and impress, as everyone knows how good all the players are in this dressing room. Both of them have pushed a similar message and it's been really enjoyable,” he concluded.

Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by the Sakshi Post team and is auto-generated from syndicated feed.

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