Head urges all teams to tap into AB's genius
AB de Villiers' foray into the Big Bash can benefit more than just his Heat teammates, rival Travis Head believes
15 January 2020, 09:26 PM AEST
While Travis Head was plotting means that might reduce the impact of his friend and rival AB de Villiers at the Gabba on Tuesday night, he was also quietly appreciating the huge influence the master South African batter can wield.
And it's not just on the young and impressionable players within de Villiers' new KFC BBL franchise Brisbane Heat that Head foresees will reap the rewards of playing alongside the 35-year-old who made an immediate impact in Tuesday's seven-wicket won over Adelaide Strikers.
The Australia Test vice-captain – who played alongside de Villiers for two seasons at Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League – is urging every competitor in BBL|09 to make the most of the star import's presence, and to tap into his wisdom.
De Villiers struck five boundaries in his 40 from 32 balls in his maiden BBL appearance for the Heat, an innings that underpinned his team's successful chase of the Strikers below-par total of 110.
But while the 35-year-old, who retired from international cricket with the Proteas in 2018, was untroubled by Adelaide's master leg spinner Rashid Khan, Head was equally impressed with his willingness to engage with teammates and opponents alike.
"He's going to be fantastic for the Heat guys like Renners (Matthew Renshaw), and (Sam) Heazlett and Max Bryant at the top (of the batting order)," Head said upon arrival in Adelaide, where the two teams lock horns again on Friday.
"I've had an opportunity to play with him (de Villiers), and he's fantastic.
"I think Salty (Strikers' UK opener Phil Salt) had a couple of words with him last night around batting, and I think everyone in the Big Bash - playing with or against - should utilise him.
"He's probably one of the best players to play in the game, but also that we've had as an overseas player in the competition.
"So hopefully a lot of guys utilise him over the next couple of weeks."
In addition to the insights and tips that de Villiers might bring to the second half of BBL|09, Head also notes the right-hander adds another dimension to the Heat's batting line-up that will make them a force for the remainder of this year's title race.
The Strikers skipper claimed that, despite the presence of captain Chris Lynn (the leading runs-scorer in BBL history), there had existed a perception the Heat's middle-order batting could be vulnerable if rival teams were able to snare early wickets in the Power Play.
As such, when Brisbane lost Lynn and Bryant in quick succession and before the end of the second over on Tuesday evening, hope rose in the Strikers' camp they might be able to defend their meagre tally.
However, that proved fleeting as de Villiers and Renshaw combined for a 77-run stand from 65 balls before the hosts cruised home with almost five overs to spare.
"AB rounds them out beautifully in that middle-order role," Head said of the Heat's new-look batting.
"I guess if there was one spot where you could put them under pressure, as we've seen though the tournament, (it was) their middle-order.
"But he rounds them out really nicely.
"I means they probably don't lean as much on Lynny scoring runs, and we saw him (de Villiers) last night when - even though we didn’t have much scoreboard pressure - it's just his coolness, his calm head.
"He's played a lot of cricket.
"He's a class player and him and Renners (Renshaw) last night, the composure they had after being 2-12 and giving us a slight sniff at the start, they shut it right down."
In addition to de Villiers' inclusion, the Heat now also boast greater bowling firepower with the availability of Test quick James Pattinson who claimed career-best BBL figures of 5-33 from four overs against the Strikers.
While Head claimed that Pattinson was not overly impressed with the way he bowled at the Gabba on Tuesday, and indicated he bowled just as well (if not better) against Perth Scorchers three days earlier when he returned 0-52, he brings pace and aggression to the Brisbane attack.
He also, in consultation with Heat coach Darren Lehmann, worked on a plan to target Head with short-pitched bowling into his body, supposedly based on evidence they gathered during the recent Test series against New Zealand when Black Caps seamer Neil Wagner launched a bouncer barrage.
But Head, who was caught down the leg side on Tuesday fending a ball from Pattinson away from his ribs, dismissed the ploy and noted he had coped with the NZ strategy so well he was the only Australia batter to score a century during the recent Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.
"First two balls they didn’t tuck me up, they gave me some width to get me started," Head said when asked if he was expecting more of the same when the teams meet again on Friday.
"Maybe I need to try and hit it a bit harder.
"My last two dismissals I've been a bit disappointed with … being one or two-for not many (when he's gone to the wicket).
"I was probably trying to ease the ball into gaps and was a bit, not hesitant, but wanting to be the bloke who could knock it around for a bit.
"So I've been a bit disappointed, they were two pretty soft dismissals.
"But I don’t think I've had two better starts in T20 cricket, really.
"Normally in my first 10 balls, I try to get myself settled and sometimes I can shank them a fair bit.
"So I was a bit disappointed to get out last night because I felt pretty much like I was hitting the middle of that bat straight from ball one, and I felt like that the other day (against Melbourne Renegades in Adelaide).
"I feel like I'm in good form.
"I'm watching the ball well, I'm moving really well, and I've been training exceptionally well so I've just got to give myself the best opportunity."
"I've been a bit unfortunate the last couple of games."