Level Head curbing his natural exuberance
The naturally gifted 25-year-old knows he must be more circumspect to survive, let alone thrive, in the Ashes cauldron
If developing an awareness of your shortcomings is a prerequisite for success, then Travis Head is setting himself on a path for a significant Test career.
As a former Australia Under-19 representative (who played alongside Cameron Bancroft and Kurtis Patterson) and was then installed as South Australia's Sheffield Shield captain at age 21, Head has long carried a burden of expectation.
But as he progressed from state cricket to senior national squads and then Australia's limited-overs and Test teams, he found that the fearless attack he liked to launch on rival bowlers regardless of their reputation had become as much a weakness as a strength.
Opponents learned that if the habitually free-scoring left-hander could be tied down for a time, he would likely succumb to a rash stroke as he tried to hit his way out of the bind.
It says much about Head's drive to hold down his current place within the Test team middle-order that, as the second-youngest member of the 17-man squad (after Marnus Labuschagne), he has clearly identified that weakness in his game.
And is working assiduously in conjunction with the Australia coaching staff and his own obsessive desire to constantly improve to eliminate it from his batting.
Something that Head understands is much more easily articulated than accomplished.
"I think for a long part of my career I was a bit, not reckless but I took the game on," the 25-year-old reflected in Birmingham, where the opening Ashes Test is scheduled to start on Thursday.
"But as I've matured a little bit and played a lot more cricket, I've got more of an understanding of how I want to play on different wickets, especially in the last 12 months.
"I've taken more time (to construct an innings) and tried to give myself a chance a bit more than I did when I was younger.
"It's about making sure I let them (opposition attacks) bowl to me, but also making sure that I'm still positive and don't change my natural instincts.
"So when there's a chance to score, score, because we're out there to get runs."
It's that inherent impetuosity – a trait that the gifted stroke-maker first exhibited when he arrived in Adelaide's Premier Cricket competition at age 16 and set about flaying bowlers who had been around the scene for a decade or more – that largely explains his lop-sided first-class record.
Since making his debut as an 18-year-old in a Sheffield Shield match against Victoria in 2012, Head has reached 50 on 50 occasions, but only nine times has he pushed on to post a century.
It's almost as if the momentum he builds as he spends more time at the crease ultimately pushes him beyond the edge; as he races through the gears, he finds it difficult to throttle back.
Encouragingly, Head knows that's an issue and one that carries even higher risk when playing against top-flight bowlers in the Test arena.
He felt confident he had curtailed the habit in his first home Test series against India last summer when he scored 72 in Adelaide and then 58 in a winning team in Perth.
But he candidly confesses some old traits returned in the second half of that series.
"I think I did a really a good job in Adelaide and Perth, then got a little bit greedy in Melbourne (where he scored 20 and 34) and Sydney (20) when the wickets were better and I wasn't able to do it for long enough," he said.
"That was the most disappointing part, because I got to Melbourne (for the Boxing Day Test) feeling really good and felt like there was a score not far away.
"I got a couple of scores throughout (the India series) but wasn't able to go on and get a big score.
"The way I was going about it – I know it's not going to work every day, and there will be days when I am challenged, and I can get through that.
"But there will also be days when I might not.
"I understand the England bowlers will put me under pressure and test that patience.
"For me, it's about making sure I continue being as positive as I can but also give myself the best chance to get big hundreds, and put us into great positions."
The breakthrough arrived during the two Tests against Sri Lanka that followed the India campaign, and after he had been elevated (along with fast bowler Pat Cummins) to the role of vice-captain under Tim Paine.
Head responded to that additional responsibility with scores of 84 (in Brisbane) and then 161 and 59 not out in Canberra.
Not only do those most recent Test knocks, as well as the unbeaten 139 he posted for Australia A against England Lions at Canterbury two weeks ago, have him confident of retaining his Test place amid pressure for middle-order batting berths from Labuschagne and Matthew Wade.
It also instils within him a level of comfort that he could take over the captaincy duties in his role as deputy should Paine be forced from the field, and he is nominated ahead of Cummins for the leadership post.
Selection chair Trevor Hohns last week suggested that Cummins was perhaps a more likely stand-in skipper should that scenario arise, but added that – given the workload heaped upon fast bowlers – the front line quick was no certainty to play every match on the current Qantas Ashes Tour.
Head revealed contingency plans for the captaincy have not yet been formally discussed within the group, but noted he was but one of several state team skippers in the current Test squad.
In addition to Mitchell Marsh, the Western Australia captain who had previously been appointed a Test vice-captain until he lost his place in the starting XI last summer, Usman Khawaja (Queensland) and Matthew Wade (Victoria and Tasmania) boast plentiful leadership experience.
In addition, ex-Test captain Steve Smith and his former deputy David Warner are on hand to lend their insights and experience even though neither is able to formally hold a position of office within the team.
Plus, Head can call on his own experience gained from four years in charge at South Australia, a position in which he's applied captaincy styles and strategies learned from his predecessors at the Redbacks, Michael Klinger and Johan Botha.
"Just taking little bits out of everyone," Head said when asked if he relied on the input of a specific leadership mentor.
"I obviously had Steve (Smith) for a lot of my one-day international career, and Painey's been fantastic.
"It was nice to field next to him at first slip on the Australia A tour because I got a great understanding of the way he thought about the game.
"I think in my first few years, I was trying to find that and probably looked at the job (as being) higher than what it was.
"But I think in the last few years, I've really taken a good focus, just making sure that my role is no bigger than anyone else's and just being there to create a really good environment.
"Just being really calm and consistent in the way I go about things.
"And then if games are getting a little bit out of hand, we can make sure that we're calm and in control."
Despite his concerted efforts to rein in his more extravagant instincts when batting, and to remain a cool and calculating presence in his vice-captaincy role, Head admits he will be hugely excited if his Ashes dream materialises.
Like the other mid-20s members of the Ashes touring party, Head retains only sketchy childhood recollections of the last time Australia won a series against England in the UK in 2001 – when he was aged seven-and-a-half.
But he has been an avid consumer of subsequent series in Britain, and recalls being glued to a television while on holiday in the Greek Islands when Ashton Agar scored his famous 98 at Trent Bridge in 2013.
He's also been among the crowd when Steve Smith's taken England's bowlers to task in recent Ashes campaigns, and enjoyed watching India in their Test battle against England during the previous northern summer.
However, he's already planning ways in which to keep his euphoria under control should he join those who have previously taken the field in their Baggy Green Caps to contest the Ashes in England.
"I'm someone who has, in the past been too excited, even before the game has started," Head admitted.
"But I've learnt from that, and JL (men's team coach Justin Langer) has been really, really good in making sure that we are fresh and ready to go.
"Over the next few days I'll get my work in but relax a bit at the same time.
"Mum and Dad and everyone will come over at some stage and it's exciting to play somewhere I haven't played (a first-class game) before.
"Edgbaston is a big ground, and it's loud and it'll be hard not to be excited.
"But it's about making sure I have my mind on the job."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval