'I can't believe it (Head's axing)'
'I'm just speechless'
Former Australian captains Matthew Hayden and Steve Waugh have been left shell-shocked by the axing of Travis Head for the first Test against India, with the former saying the player himself was in disbelief after knowing his fate.
The Australian team management chose right-handed batter Peter Handscomb ahead of the 2021-22 Ashes "Player of the Series" Head, probably because the 29-year-old is a left-hander.
The pre-match talk revolved around India preparing the Nagpur track to unsettle the Australian side packed with left-handers and that could have played a role in visitors' choice of players.
"I can't believe it (Head's axing). Mark Waugh actually was right next to him, and nor could Travis Head in that brief conversation," Hayden was quoted as saying on Fox Cricket after the playing XI for the match was announced on Thursday.
"For me he was player of the summer. Totally different conditions I know in Brisbane at the Gabba but his 90 in Brisbane (against South Africa) was just so damn good. He made it like it was flat and it wasn't. It was an absolute raging green top."
"But his mindset and his ability to be able to score quickly … I'm just speechless," added Hayden.
Head got a 92 in the first Test against South Africa at the Gabba, which helped the hosts win by six wickets in December last year.
The middle-order batter again scored a half-century in the second Test at MCG as Australia defeated the Proteas by an innings to take a 2-0 lead. He went on to make another quick-fire 70 in the drawn third Test at Sydney in January 2023.
In fact, the 'Player of the Series' against the Proteas, David Warner, who scored a double-century at MCG, was surprised at receiving the award ahead of Head.
Waugh felt the Cricket Australia chairman of selectors George Bailey and head coach Andrew McDonald perhaps overanalysed the chatter around the wicket.
"Hard to believe we can drop the number 4 ranked test batsman in the world and probably our best batsman in the last 12 months plus he bowls better than average off spin – let's wait and see - maybe the Aussie selectors are genius! #gamble #overanalysing? #waitandsee,” Waugh wrote on Instagram.
Murphy's overspin and drop will come in handy for Australia as O'Keefe justifies selection
Former Australia left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe has praised the team management's decision to hand out Test debut to tweaker Todd Murphy in the opening game against India, saying the 22-year-old's "overspin and drop" will come in handy on spin-friendly tracks.
The bespectacled Murphy, who was presented the Baggy Green by fellow spinner Nathan Lyon in Nagpur on Thursday, is playing his first international match for Australia in any format and his selection ahead of Ashton Agar and leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson did come as a bit of a surprise.
While Agar has played five Tests and is a T20I stalwart, Swepson has donned the Baggy Green in four Tests, besides playing 11 white-ball matches.
Murphy, on the other hand, has played just seven first-class games but has been impressive in the Sheffield Shield.
"He (Murphy) is something very, very special. I haven't been this excited about an off-spinner since Nathan Lyon," O'Keefe said on SEN Radio.
"I think he bowls with overspin and drop. Not only that, he's got a lot of skills to his armoury, he can bowl square seam which is important over there… Todd Murphy is the guy in his brief cricket journey so far who can use all of those skills in certain parts of the game and really exploit them."
O'Keefe, who has 35 wickets in nine Test, also added that Murphy has in his repertoire a few more variations apart from his classic off-spin, and this makes him a likely heir to Lyon in the years to come.
"I think what you'll see with Todd is he can bowl the classic off-spinner along with three or four other (types of deliveries). I can see him in the next 12-18 months being a suitable replacement for Nathan Lyon and I think we'll see that straight away in this first Test."
However, O'Keefe hoped Murphy does not succumb to pressure as Indian batters will try to unsettle the youngster early on in the match.
"Todd's going to have to bowl tight, he's going to have to bowl straight and he's going to have to do that containing role because the last thing you want over there is two spinners that are going at four an over there, particularly if you only have two quicks," said OKeefe.
"This is what India will do, they'll put the young spinner under the pump straight away. I just hope that Todd can produce his best and really lock down an end and do what is required to support the other three bowlers."