Sussex overseas signing yet to speak to Justin Langer since central contract omission
Travis Head is yet to speak to Justin Langer after his surprise omission from Australia’s central contracts list two weeks ago, but says that the channel of communication with selectors Trevor Hohns and George Bailey has been “ultra-clear” regarding his standing within the national squads.
Head was dropped two Tests into Australia’s home series defeat to India, but finished the Sheffield Shield season as the competition’s second-highest run-scorer and had been named in the squad for the aborted tour to South Africa. With a respectable average of 39.75 after 19 Tests, he remains in contention for the 2021-22 Ashes series, and hopes to prove his worth during a season-long stint playing county cricket for Sussex, with his debut likely to arrive on Thursday against Northamptonshire.
“It was disappointing not to be on there, but from the standpoint of where we need to be and what Australian cricket wants and expects, they want guys contributing in international cricket and winning games for Australia,” Head said. “When I had my opportunity, I wasn’t able to do that. It was great to go home and play really well in domestic cricket but at the end of the day, when I get my opportunity, I need to be able to take that in international cricket.
“It would have been difficult to be at home, having two months off going into pre-season, and having that over my head, [but] I get a great opportunity to have an impact at Sussex and make as many runs as possible. That’s the currency. I’ve done it domestically in Australia, and hopefully that can hold me in good stead for the summer.”
Head found out about his omission from the central contracts list while on a camping trip in rural South Australia with his fiancée’s family, with his lack of phone signal or internet access inadvertently forcing Cricket Australia to delay the announcement. He has not yet had the opportunity to speak to Langer, Australia’s head coach, but said that he expects to do so in the coming days.
“It’s been a bit hectic over the last little bit but I’ve had so many conversations with JL, with George Bailey and with Trevor Hohns,” Head said. “I know the messaging, which is ultra-clear – there are no mixed messages whatsoever. I’m really comfortable with that, and know the expectation of what I need to do.
“We’ll get the opportunity to chat but it won’t be about dwelling on it – it’ll be about moving forward and asking what needs to be done over the next six months to be ready to go [for the Ashes]. Those conversations have always been had and I’m pretty clear on that. It’d be great to have a chat at some point but at the end of the day, I’m here playing cricket, and I get the opportunity to score as many runs as possible.”
This year is third time lucky for Head at Sussex: he had been lined up for a stint in 2019 but was unable to fulfil it after his inclusion in Australia’s Ashes squad, and his contract was deferred last summer due to the pandemic. Jason Gillespie, his South Australia and Adelaide Strikers coach who initially recruited him, is no longer at the county, but Head said that he intended to “settle down” and make Sussex a home away from home following previous stints with Worcestershire and Yorkshire.
His contract covers all formats, and he stated his intentions to play “as much as I possibly can” in white-ball cricket despite the competition for places: counties are permitted to register three overseas players simultaneously but can only field two in a playing XI, and Sussex have signed both Rashid Khan and David Wiese specifically for the T20 Blast.
“Keith [Greenfield, director of cricket] and I will sit down over the next couple of days,” he said. “We’ve spoken about looking at the schedule and when I would or wouldn’t play, but from my side, I’m here to play cricket, win games for Sussex and help create a culture of success. It’s always been a really strong [T20] team so I’m looking forward to getting in there and whacking it around.”
Head’s arrival should bolster an inexperienced batting line-up that has missed the injured Phil Salt early in the season. Sussex are third in Group Three of the County Championship after four matches, but have let strong positions slip in their last two fixtures, at home to Yorkshire and Lancashire, resulting in a significant gap between the top two and the rest of the group.
“I’ve kept a very close eye on it,” Head said. “[The Shield] was my best season, personally, and it was consistent – as a cricketer and as a batter, that’s what I want to be. I made a couple of changes to my technique and it’s always nice when that works. I’ve had a couple of weeks off but had a hit before I left and everything felt in good order.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98