Australia's opening dynamo benefited from lessons learned during the India Test series and the faith of selectors before producing a career-defining knock
Head's final heroics complete epic comeback tale
Not deemed worthy of a spot in Australia's XI for their first match in India this year, Travis Head finished player of the match in each of the newly-crowned world champions final two ODIs in India this year.
Head's match-winning World Cup final century is the latest checkpoint in a staggering rise from in-and-out batter to out-and-out superstar.
The 29-year-old's remarkable return from a broken hand that nearly ruled him out of the tournament was capped by him joining Adam Gilchrist and fellow legend Ricky Ponting as Australians to have made tons in deciding matches of the pinnacle men's ODI event.
It came in a tremendous all-round finish to the World Cup; in addition to bashing 62 off 48 on a tough Kolkata surface in the semi-final against South Africa, he also took two crucial wickets, before taking one of his best-ever catches to dismiss Rohit Sharma in the final.
Having idolised fellow left-hander Gilchrist as a child – he lists the legendary 'keeper-batter's squash-ball-in-the-glove hundred in the 2007 final as one of his foremost cricket memories – Head now has his own remarkable century tale.
"Not in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be here," the South Australian told reporters after his 192-run partnership with Marnus Labuschagne sealed Australia's six-wicket win.
"It's hard to put into words how it felt. I felt so in control with 'Marn' out there. We spoke today about not leaving anything on the table and not leaving anything to chance.
"To imagine getting a hundred in a World Cup final, not knowing if I was going to be here, it's crazy …. There was a moment there when I looked up and we needed 30 to win and I still couldn't believe what was going on."
Head's 137 from just 120 balls was his second hundred in an ICC final this year following his 163 in the World Test Championship decider at The Oval in June, also against India. He was player of the match then, too.
Only months before that he had been a shock axing from Australia's team for their first Test against India in February.
Head only returned for the ensuing Test because of his bowling, before finishing the 1-2 series defeat as a makeshift opener for the conditions after David Warner was injured.
A perceived frailty against spin bowling was behind his initial omission, which made his knock on a turning Ahmedabad pitch on Sunday in the biggest match of his white-ball career even more notable.
Head took Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav to pieces, hitting 63 from 59 balls and three of his four sixes off the lauded spin pair.
He drew on the technical adjustments he had made before the Border-Gavaskar Trophy campaign in the lead-in to the World Cup final.
"I spoke yesterday to 'Ron' (McDonald) about trying to get back to how I played in the Test series – staying very leg-side, getting the legs out of the way, and hitting the ball and being positive," said the lethal left-hander, who also made 90 in the final Test in Ahmedabad in March to mark his highest Test score in Asia.
"I didn't think I was going to need that in one-day cricket, (but) the ball took some spin today and I was pleased that I drew back on those experiences and I guess to have composure.
"Maybe (getting dropped from the Test team) was a blessing in disguise because it gave me a week in India, gave me an extra week to work on things I wanted to work on.
"I drew back on that that blueprint and the memories that I had from that."
Head initially thought his World Cup dream had been ripped away when Gerald Coetzee fractured his left hand with a bouncer in a bilateral ODI in Johannesburg only three weeks before Australia's tournament opener.
Captain Pat Cummins revealed it was coach Andrew McDonald, part of the same selection panel that had contentiously overlooked Head for the first Test in Nagpur months earlier, who was the driving force behind backing Head in for the World Cup.
"We thought his World Cup was straight over," said Cummins. "It wasn't until about the next night afterwards where 'Ronnie' came up to me, He's like, 'I haven't slept all last night – I think we're going to keep him. We're going to take the risk – if we're going to make the finals and we want to win the World Cup I think he needs to be there for the finals'.
"It was his idea and great work by the medical team. That was a big risk. I think we could have been made to look really silly if that didn't pay off, but you've got to take those risks to win a tournament.
"And Trav, the player we've seen in Test cricket, he just epitomised everything I want out of a cricket team. He takes the game on, he plays with a smile, he just puts the pressure right back onto the opposition and he's just great fun to be around."
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: Beat Sri Lanka by five wickets
October 20: Beat Pakistan by 62 runs
October 25: Beat Netherlands by 309 runs
October 28: Beat New Zealand by five runs
November 4: Beat England by 33 runs
November 7: Beat Afghanistan by three wickets
November 11: Beat Bangladesh by eight wickets
November 16: Beat South Africa by three wickets
November 19: Beat India by six wickets
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