Travis Head had left a telling impact on the World Cup final way before he had walked out to bat by taking a stunning catch of ‘unluckiest man’ Rohit Sharma.
What Travis Head did with the bat in the World Cup 2023 final against India was remarkable. His 137 off 120 balls would go down as one of the best innings played in a World Cup final – he became the third Australian after Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist to slam a century in the summit clash. That it came in a winning cause, giving Australia their record-extending sixth World Cup title, would taste sweeter. But when he was going to collect the Player of the Match award, the jam-packed close to 100,000 crowd at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad and the billions watching on TV or mobile screens from different parts of the world knew it was not because of his batting alone.
Head had left a telling impact on the World Cup final way before he had walked out to bat. It was as early as the 10th over of India’s innings that Head took a fantastic catch running backwards to send India captain Rohit Sharma back to the pavilion. Ian Smith in the commentary stuck his head out and said, “That’s the turning point of the match for me.” India still had 8 wickets including that of Virat Kohli and there were still potentially 90 overs of cricket left in the final. Wasn’t it a bit too early to pick “turning points” of the match? Yes, in most cases but not on Sunday.
Rohit was on a rampage like he has been in almost every match of this World Cup. He took down Josh Hazlewood, one of Australia’s biggest weapons with the new ball. He seemed to have planned to take Glenn Maxwell out of the attack too with a six and a boundary off back-to-back deliveries in the last over of the powerplay. But when he went for the third, it didn’t come off. Rohit swung his bat towards the on side without getting to the pitch of the ball and the slow nature of the pitch allowed it to take that little longer to reach him. The result was a leading edge.
The ball went high up in the air and Head, who was standing in the covers, started running backwards. He kept his eyes on the ball, reached his hands out and grabbed onto it to complete a stunning catch that took the mind back to that famous Kapil Dev catch of Viv Richards in the 1983 World Cup final. It was a huge moment then. This was a huge moment now.
Rohit hit three sixes and four fours in his 31-ball 47-run knock. After his fall, India managed only four more fours in the next 40 overs – the lowest in a completed innings of 50 overs in more than a decade. That’s how crucial Rohit’s wicket was.
“He’s (Rohit Sharma) probably the unluckiest man in the world,” Head said in the post-match ceremony about the Indian captain, who could barely hold on to his tears after Maxwell hit the winning runs.
“Again, it’s (fielding) something that I worked hard on. I couldn’t imagine getting a hundred, couldn’t probably imagine holding onto that one. Was great to hold on to that catch,” Head said about that catch.