Injured Head provides update on World Cup comeback plans

Aussie opener's recovery from injury coming along 'better than we hoped' with sights set on World Cup return

Travis Head has returned to batting for the first time since suffering a fracture to his left hand last month, and is eyeing a return to Australia's World Cup squad at the end of this week.

Head, who was named in Australia's 15-man Cup squad despite sustaining the injury in a one-day international against South Africa on September 15, had the protective splint removed from his hand last Friday and has faced an increasing number of throw downs in the practice nets since then.

Injury blow as Head retires hurt with hand knock

The left-handed opener is scheduled to fly out of Adelaide on Thursday arriving in India the following day, with those travel plans contingent on him continuing to recover at pace and thereby show he can play a meaningful part in the team's remaining matches.

Even if that is the case, he would not be available for Australia's fourth game of the tournament against Pakistan at Bengaluru's M. Chinnaswamy Stadium next Friday but could be passed fit for the subsequent outing against Netherlands in Delhi.

Following that, Australia are scheduled to play New Zealand (Dharamsala), reigning champions England (Ahmedabad), Afghanistan (Mumbai) and Bangladesh (Pune).

"It's coming along well, and probably better than we hoped," Head told cricket.com.au today.

"When we decided not to go with surgery, which would have meant a 10-week recovery, we were told it would be minimum six weeks with the splint before we could look at playing again.

"Going by that plan, the Netherlands game will be just under six weeks from impact which is a pretty aggressive date so everything would have to go perfectly from here to make that deadline.

"But we'll just see how it progresses over the next few days and I'm excited by the prospect of joining the boys over there later in the week.

"I wasn't even sure I'd be able to bat when the splint came off but, apart from a fair bit of stiffness given I hadn't been able to use it for the past four weeks, I was able to hit balls and play a fair range of shots."

The other element of the plan which remains beyond Head's control is the Australia team's fortunes, having lost their opening two matches of the Cup campaign against India and South Africa.

Another defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka tomorrow would seriously dent their hopes of progressing to the play-off phase of the tournament, at which point selectors may opt to replace Head in the squad and have him focus on preparation for the upcoming NRMA Insurance Test matches starting against Pakistan on December 14.

The 29-year-old, who had established himself as David Warner's opening partner in the 50-over line-up prior to being struck on the hand by South Africa seamer Gerard Coetzee at Centurion, has been following Australia's progress via television from his home in Adelaide.

However, he admits he's not stayed up to watch the two completed batting innings to date in their entirety and has been relying on the shortened highlights packages to glean what's unfolded.

It's the first time in his decade-long professional career that Head has been sidelined with a major injury, and he concedes undertaking a rehabilitation program is a new experience that means he's unsure what to expect over coming days.

He is also yet to gauge how significantly the injury will impact his contributions in the field, given he's yet to subject himself to catching or other drills.

"I'm not sure what it will mean for fielding, we haven't explored that yet," he said.

"I had it scanned the other day and it's healing, and I guess it will be a bit like Pat Cummins' wrist that gets strapped up as protection after he got that fracture.

"So there's still a few hurdles we need to clear, and everything needs to fall into place from my end and from the team's point of view over there before the final decision is made.

"But hopefully that's all good, and I'm on the plane on Thursday."

Since regaining a berth in Australia's one-day line-up as a replacement for Warner in the limited-overs series that followed their 2022 Pakistan Test tour, Head has averaged almost 61 at the top of the order at a strike rate of nearly 120 runs per 100 balls faced.

Head flays England around MCG in brutal 152

The only specialist batters to have played more than 15 ODI innings and recorded a superior strike rate during that 18-month window are South Africa duo Heinrich Klaasen (133.4) and David Miller (122.5).

In addition, Head's occasional off-spin has proved a handy option on subcontinent pitches which explains why selectors gambled by retaining him in the World Cup squad despite knowing he would miss at least the first half of the tournament through injury.

Australia's 2023 ODI World Cup fixtures

October 8: Lost to India by six wickets

October 12: Lost to South Africa by 134 runs

October 16: v Sri Lanka, Lucknow (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 20: v Pakistan, Bengaluru (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 25: v Netherlands, Delhi (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 28: v New Zealand, Dharamsala, 4pm AEDT

November 4: v England, Ahmedabad (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

November 7: v Afghanistan, Mumbai (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

November 11: v Bangladesh, Pune, 4pm AEDT

Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Sean Abbott, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa

2023 World Cup standings

Matches played
No results
Net Run Rate
Total points
1 India Men India Men IND 9 9 0 0 0 2.57 0 18
2 South Africa Men South Africa Men SA 9 7 2 0 0 1.261 0 14
3 Australia Men Australia Men AUS 9 7 2 0 0 0.841 0 14
4 New Zealand Men New Zealand Men NZ 9 5 4 0 0 0.743 0 10
5 Pakistan Men Pakistan Men PAK 9 4 5 0 0 -0.199 0 8
6 Afghanistan Men Afghanistan Men AFG 9 4 5 0 0 -0.336 0 8
7 England Men England Men ENG 9 3 6 0 0 -0.572 0 6
8 Bangladesh Men Bangladesh Men BAN 9 2 7 0 0 -1.087 0 4
9 Sri Lanka Men Sri Lanka Men SL 9 2 7 0 0 -1.419 0 4
10 Netherlands Men Netherlands Men NED 9 2 7 0 0 -1.825 0 4

M: Matches played

W: Wins

L: Losses

T: Ties

N/R: No results

NRR: Net Run Rate

Ded.: Deductions

PTS: Total points