Travis Head knows the art of performing in big matches. He came into this tournament with an injury and missed the first few games.
But once he returned, there was no looking back. A 109 in his opening match in Dharamsala paved the way for Australia’s turnaround. Then in another tricky chase in the semi-final against South Africa at Eden Gardens last Thursday, his 62 earned him the Man of the Match award.
Head revels in taking on the challenges and his 137 on Sunday was another show of his temperament. He watched the return of David Warner, Mitch Marsh and Steve Smith within the first seven overs from the non-striker’s end. But he was not one to panic or wilt.
He began with a cautious approach and waited for the opportunities. Australia had a plan in place and Head executed it with perfection showing his positive intent. Once Marsh showed the way with a boundary and a six, he stepped in.
Australia knew well they couldn’t allow the spinners to dictate terms on this slow and low wicket. Head didn’t take any chances against Ravindra Jadeja but once Kuldeep Yadav came into the attack, he decided to give him the charge.
Head slog-swept Kuldeep over mid-wicket for a six and never missed out on the singles. The objective was to not give any opportunity to Kuldeep and Jadeja to dictate terms as Marnus Labuschagne gave him support.
Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami came back for their second spells hoping to make an impact but Head stood tall. There was a straight drive past Bumrah and a strong bottomhand flick to the deep mid-wicket fence.
Head had struggled against the short-pitched stuff during the World Test Championship final at The Oval, but there was no point trying it out in these slow conditions.
“Never expected this, not in a million years, truly an exceptional day... I’m really glad to contribute, the first 20 balls I played gave me a lot of confidence and yeah, I was able to carry through,” Head said.
“The way Mitch Marsh came out and took the game on, he set the tone. That was the energy we wanted and we knew the wicket may get tough. It was a great decision to bowl first after winning the toss. I felt the wicket got better as the day went on... Nice to be a part of it, nice to play a role in all of that.”
It was not just Head but their bowling which crippled the Indian batting. Pat Cummins regained his rhythm as the tournament progressed and had reserved his best for the final.
Mitchell Starc did bear the brunt of Rohit Sharma’s explosive batting at the start but came back strongly to strike important breakthroughs. The left-arm pacer has been their most dominant bowler in this format since the 2015 World Cup.
“Cummins was phenomenal, he’s been phenomenal all tournament in his decision making, his leadership. At times, he had to step up with the ball when it was a bit flat. He capped off an unbelievable eight weeks for this group,” Starc said in praise of Cummins’ leadership.
“I haven’t got any words left... it’s been an incredible winter. I don’t think you could write a script to top the win that we’ve had. To win a World Cup in India, it’s been a fantastic eight weeks...”
It was not just about Australia’s batting and bowling but their fielding was outstanding. Warner alone saved at least 20 runs in the outfield.
Steve Smith acknowledged their effort that gave them their sixth men’s World Cup title. “The atmosphere was amazing today. Great performance from the team. The bowlers set the tone, the fielding was great,” the former captain said. “Head’s show was incredible. Took the game on and Marnus played another unbelievable and great supporting role.”
Australia are always a different team in the knockout phase and showed their prowess once again on Sunday. They wanted to prove a point and there was no looking back for Cummins’ men.
The Australian captain must have returned satisfied after managing to keep the crowd silent for most of the day.