Australian cricket coach Andrew McDonald has defended his decision to snub Travis Head from the first two ODIs of the five-match series against Sri Lanka, despite Head’s brilliant recent form in the 50-over format.
Head belted a century in Australia A’s one dayer against Sri Lanka A on Friday and scored the second-most runs of any Aussie in the ODI leg of this year’s Pakistan tour.
But the reigning Ashes Man Of The Series won’t line up in the first two Sri Lanka ODIs, which are taking place on Tuesday and Thursday.
Instead, David Warner is set to take Head’s spot at the top of the batting order while he plays in Australia A’s first-class match in Hambantota from Tuesday.
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McDonald said Head’s priority needed to be practising his red-ball skills before the Test series.
“He just has to bide his time at the moment,” McDonald said of Head.
“We see it as an opportunity for him to get some really good match opportunities within that A Game building into the Test series. That’s equally important as well, his exposure to the subcontinent conditions.
“That’s been the messaging, the guys that are on deck overe here, we’d prefer to see them playing than running drinks.”
On Tuesday, Warner and Steve Smith are returning to the side for their first ODIs since 2020. Head could join them in the team later in the series.
“We’re not saying that he won’t play any part in the ODI series,” McDonald said.
“He got an opportunity in Pakistan and took that with some brilliant ball-striking, which was seen by all. Davey comes back into that spot, obviously Steve Smith comes back in as well, so there’s two big inclusions.
“(Head) is pushing hard for selection.”
McDonald said it was unlikely any of the Aussie pacemen would line up in all five games of the ODI series, which are being played across just 11 days.
Mitch Marsh and Mitch Starc are both injured, so Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson and Kane Richardson look set to shoulder the fast-bowling load for at least the opening two matches.
“It’s going to be tough with the short turnarounds,” McDonald said.
“Even if there wasn’t a Test series on the back of it, it’d still be very difficult to go through those five games being so close together.”
All-rounder Cameron Green is unable to bowl for the first two ODIs, having pulled up sore playing for Australia A, which strikes out another pace option.
McDonald confirmed Green could still be selected, though.
“We’re not dismissing the fact that Cam can play as a batter,” McDonald said.
“He’s just a fraction behind where we’d like him to be so we’ll probably go on the conservative side there.
“But the three games back in Colombo, we feel as though he’ll be well positioned to fill his full capabilities in being an all-rounder.”