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Travis Head: Away series define you as a player

The left hander says that Australia will need to be "brave" with selection with full buy-in from the squad

After plundering two centuries to spectacularly resurrect his Test career, Travis Head's Ashes heroics have guaranteed him a start in Australia's first Test line-up against Pakistan but he expects "brave" selections from the team's brains trust during the historic tour.
With just five Tests staged in Pakistan since the long format returned in 2019, Australia are not exactly sure what to expect with the conditions when they arrive there for the first time since 1998. Their preparation is further complicated by not playing a warm-up match ahead of the series opener starting on March 4.
Interim coach Andrew McDonald has expressed confidence in potentially utilising a flexible approach, which could range from three spinners being used if conditions suit or merely sticking with mostly the same attack that dominated England in the Ashes if the pitches are seam friendly.
A tweak of the middle-order is possible too although Head should be a certain starter. He was the last player picked for Australia's first Test team at the Gabba but ended the Ashes as player of the series and leading run scorer on both sides in the bowler-dominated contest.
Head, however, said Australia would need buy-in from every member of the squad reminiscent of the team's retention of the Ashes in the UK in 2019 - the last time they played a Test series overseas.
"We've seen that in the Ashes in 2019 that you have to be brave not only how you play but in the way you select the team," he said. "Everyone in the squad has to understand they are going on that plane to hopefully have an impact on the series.
"We did that in 2019 when we swapped our bowlers around and played Mitch Marsh…I was on the receiving end of that [for the fifth Test] which was disappointing. But at the end of the day you have to pick the best team who will win a Test match or series. It will take the whole squad to do that."
With Australia's long overseas Test drought about to end, Head understood the importance of the Pakistan series for his career having only played six of his 23 Tests away from home with an average of 28.45 compared to an overall mark of 49.87. The left-hander sought inspiration from star team-mate Steven Smith, who averages 60 in six Tests in India, which is fractionally higher than his overall career mark.
"I think what defines you as a player, the away series," Head said. "You look at Smithy's record in India, when he goes away to India and plays on those wickets it takes him to a different level.
"On the flipside, you can't chase that, you can't change yourself, you can't try and be someone that you're not. It's definitely challenging and you definitely get tested and I think that is where you can take your game to a different level."
For the first time in Head's Test career, having debuted against Pakistan in the UAE in late 2018, Justin Langer will not be at the helm adding to the unfamiliarity of the experience. But he has a long relationship with McDonald having played with him for South Australia early in his career.
"He's a great thinker of the game and communicator," Head said of McDonald. "It's exciting to go into a series with something new and fresh."
While primarily focusing on continuing his Test momentum, Head admitted he was excited about being selected in Australia's white-ball leg of the tour which involves three ODIs and a one-off T20I. Having so stunningly unleashed his batting aggression against England, Head could be a chance to make his return from a three-year exile from the limited-overs sides at the top of the order with David Warner resting.
It looms as an early audition for the upcoming T20 World Cup and the 50-over World Cup next year. "I feel like my one-day cricket has come a long way," he said. "[Test cricket] has made me a better player, more compact and I can score around the ground. Playing international cricket no matter the format makes me a better player."

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth