Head and Labuschagne shouldn’t have played at the World Cup. Then they became heroes

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Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne thought they wouldn’t even be at this tournament, let alone starring with a 192-run partnership that helped guide Australia to their sixth World Cup title in Ahmedabad on Sunday.

“Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought I was going to be here,” Head said after scoring 137 from just 120 balls with 15 fours and four sixes, his second century of the tournament.

Head thought he was out of the World Cup when he suffered a broken hand in South Africa a fortnight out from the start of the tournament.

And Labuschagne, who played the anchor with 58 not out from 110 balls, believes his precarious survival in the one-day team was down to divine intervention from the time he replaced Cameron Green as a concussion sub in the pre-World Cup tour of South Africa.

“I’m a man of faith, and the way the last 19 games have gone, there’s no way I can give the credit to anyone else but the man above honestly,” said Labuschagne, who believed he had been “unofficially dropped” about five times, only to be saved by player injuries or unavailability.

Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne pose with the World Cup Trophy.Credit: Getty

“It’s only for the last two games I’ve been in the team with a fully fit squad,” he said.

Even the night before the final Labuschagne thought he was out of the team.

“Last night at ten o’clock the team hadn’t been announced. I was sitting on my bed actually thinking about how can I add value if I was not playing,” Labuschagne said. “Maybe fielding or on bench, what can I do to help, and then at quarter past ten the message came through, and it just said ‘same team, good luck guys’. So that was a bit of relief.”

Long before he put India to the sword with his bat, Head had changed the game in the field, running back from cover to take a diving, sprawling catch off India captain Rohit Sharma, who was running rampant having scored 47 in 31 balls.

“I don’t know what I can’t believe more, what happened with the hundred and winning a World Cup, or taking that catch,” Head said. “It was an important wicket, but I didn’t think I was going to get there at first. It started to spin back to me a little bit and yeah, one of those things, I held on to it. Thank God I did because Rohit is obviously an unbelievable player and he is very threatening in that situation.”

Captain Pat Cummins described Head’s performance as “phenomenal”.

“A lot of credit should also go to [coach] Andrew McDonald and [chairman of selectors] George Bailey and the selectors to take a punt. He had a broken hand for the half of the tournament, but to keep him in the squad was a huge risk.

“And the medical team were fantastic, obviously, to get him into a place where he could perform. So that was a big risk. I think we could have been made to look really silly if that didn’t pay off, but you got to take those risks to win a tournament.

“And Trav, the player we’ve seen in Test cricket, he just epitomises 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. So, I couldn’t be happier for Trav.”

Cummins confirmed that Labuschagne was originally the victim of the team’s more attacking approach when he was left out of the initial World Cup squad.

“We wanted to be pretty brave this World Cup, we didn’t want to kind of limp into the semi-finals, we wanted to be the team that could score 400,” Cummins said, pointing to heavy hitters Head, David Warner and Mitchell Marsh in the top three.

“We wanted to be really aggressive and then a couple of our all-rounders are obviously aggressive to finish up the innings, so we would rather fail that way, but then Marnus just showed his class and we had to pick him.”

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