Chappell backs Head start for Ashes
NATIONAL selector Greg Chappell says Travis Head is the Australian team's prime example that the absence of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft has provided emerging players with opportunities to flourish.
Head bumped his Test batting average up to 51 on the back of a six-game summer that culminated with scores of 84, 59 not out and 161 - his maiden ton - against Sri Lanka.
He was also promoted to vice-captain, alongside Pat Cummins, last month.
Competition for batting spots will be fierce ahead of the first Ashes Test in August given Smith and Warner return from their 12-month "Sandpaper-gate" suspensions on March 29, while Bancroft is already back on the selection radar from his nine-month ban.
Chappell said the national team would be stronger when they returned not only because of their talent but due to others, like Head, having gained valuable experience in the trio's time away.
"Travis Head's a prime example - he's a much better cricketer than he was 12 months ago," Chappell said.
"There are others as well who will have benefited greatly and we may not have yet seen the benefits of what having those opportunities has created."
Chappell said Head's performances were pleasing more than surprising because selectors hoped they had "seen something that suggested he was capable of that".
Head entered the summer with two Tests to his name and scores of 0, 72, 14 and 36, then made two half-centuries against India before hitting his breakthrough ton in Canberra.
"Some people don't realise the history - someone like Steve Waugh took 27 Test matches to make a Test hundred," he said.
"They don't walk out and make hundreds straight away.
"What Travis has done is a good summer, it's a good body of work and it's something on which he can build, and I'm sure he will build."
With 541 runs, Head was Australia's most prolific Test batsman of what many observers considered a mixed summer for the hosts.
But Chappell believed the national team's performances, which featured a 2-1 Test series loss to India, 2-0 Test triumph over Sri Lanka and 2-1 One-Day International defeat to Virat Kohli's team, were "a lot better than maybe the media and the statistics would have us believe".
As for when the Ashes squad would be announced, Chappell said the selection panel, which also included coach Justin Langer and Trevor Hohns, would not be rushed.
Chappell said Smith and Warner would be "back in the mix like everyone else" once they had served their suspensions.
"There's a lot of cricket to come and we'll be quite happy to utilise as much as possible before making a decision," he said.
"I'm sure the majority of the squad is known to us already, it will be the balance and the final pieces that will fall in place over the next few months."