REACTIONS: Ponting’s ultimate praise for Head, Marnus finally ‘lost for words’ and Cummins reveals secret to success

Travis Head has been left incredulous at his latest extraordinary big match tour de force, declaring that “not in a million years” would he have imagined becoming Australia’s World Cup match-winner.   

In September, a fractured left hand suffered in South Africa looked set to rule Head out of the tournament in India but, backed by the selectors, he has been able to repay their faith with a series of brilliant performances, the best of which he saved until last.

It wasn’t just his extraordinary 137 that broke 100-000-plus Indian fans’ hearts in Ahmedabad, but one game-changing catch to get rid of Rohit Sharma and a couple of miserly overs with the ball that completed one of the great individual performances ever witnessed in global cricket’s biggest showpiece.

Travis Head’s dazzling catch to dismiss Rohit Sharma was just as important as his big runs.

What a knock! #CWC23

— (@cricketcomau) November 19, 2023

“Not in a million years would I have believed this, what an amazing day,” smiled the 29-year-old, who was not only the player of the match in the final, but also in the semi-final against South Africa and the World Test Championship final at The Oval, where he again tormented India with a wonderful 163.

It all prompted former captain Ricky Ponting to tell Sky Sports in Ahmedabad: “We talk about big moments and guys standing up, well he’s emerging as one of the very best three-format players in the world right now.”

Yet it had only been last month when Head still wasn’t sure if he’d make it to the big show after breaking his hand.

“It’s a lot better than sitting on the couch at home, I’m very lucky that everything went well and that I was able to get back here and all support the boys showed me,” he smiled.

If any moment turned the match Australia’s way, it had been in the field when Head sprinted a good 15 metres from point into the deep to cling on to a magnificent catch to dismiss Sharma after he’d just smashed Glenn Maxwell for a six and a four.

“Probably the unluckiest man in the world,” Head shrugged about the Indian captain.

“Couldn’t imagine getting a hundred – and couldn’t imagine holding on to that catch. Nice to be able to hold on to something that’s important – you want to look after your teammates, you want to contribute.”

With the bat, he did just that, going on to join Ponting and Adam Gilchrist as the only  three Australians to score a century in a World Cup final. “I’m definitely third on that list,” he said with typical modesty. “It’s a nice one to join.”

But his success brought delight to his teammates. “We couldn’t be happier for Trav,” said Pat Cummins. “He’s a legend, we love him. How fun was he to watch?”

Ponting also saluted him. “A little bit unorthodox at times, you quite often see him against that new ball and think, ‘how on earth is he gonna get through this?’ but he does. He not only survives, he scores quickly, and scores big runs.

“And the stage doesn’t get any bigger than today. Australia three for 40, India all over him in front of 130,000 people. He had to change the way that he played, went from sixth gear back to second and established an amazing partnership with Marnus (Labuschagne) just when their team needed it the most.”

Labuschagne also took an unusual path to World Cup final glory – he feared the selectors’ axe was finally going to catch up with him on the eve of the decider.

Labuschagne played a steady hand, hitting an unbeaten 58 as part of the match-winning 192-run stand with Head.

The Queenslander was close to chanceless in his 110 balls. But in truth, the man who made his name in Test cricket after being a call in as a concussion substitute was also not meant to even be playing in this World Cup, let alone the final.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Called into the group for the ODIs in South Africa in September, he has now played 19 games straight.

His stays of execution have come as Head returned from a fractured hand in this World Cup, Maxwell fell off a golf cart and Steve Smith battled a bout of vertigo.

By the time Australia were finally at full fitness, Labuschagne was close to undroppable, with his energy in the field almost as valuable as his safe batting.

And on Sunday night, he repaid the faith, being the perfect man for the conditions when Australia required four an over and some genuine Test match batting.

“I’m a man of faith and believe in God, but the way everything’s happened, it’s unbelievable to me and it’s just amazing,” Labuschagne said. 

“I’m lost for words. The amount of times that I thought I’m done. 

“Even last night, team didn’t get named till about 10pm. I thought the coaches went to the ground. It might be dewy, I might be out.

“I’m very thankful for them for sticking with me. I don’t have many words to explain. 

Getting the job done ????@marnus3cricket & @travishead34 #CWC23

— (@cricketcomau) November 19, 2023

“Three months ago, I wasn’t even in South Africa in the one-day team and to play 19 games straight from there, it’s truly a miracle.”

Labuschagne described the triumph over India as the “best achievement” he had ever been part of. He took seven balls to get off the mark, but then only faced more than three dots in a row three more times.

For the most part he was able to turn the strike over, let Head get to work and ensure the pressure did not build on Australia.

“I was a little bit nervous, but Marnus played exceptional,” Head said. “It was awesome to bat with him. He soaked up all the pressure and it was just an amazing partnership.”

Cummins added that Australia’s success in winning the T20 World Cup two years ago, the Test trophy and retaining the Ashes was due to teamwork rather than their individual star talent.

“We’ve got a lot of experience and we’ve got many different characters which is great, you want that in a team but everyone buys in,” he said.

“Everyone does what the team needs. Everyone’s there to look after each other. And I think that’s something that’s contributed to a few of our successes over the years.”

with AAP

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