Ahead of his first Test on home soil in Adelaide, Travis Head expects Australia to walk taller in the field against India for the presence of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. He does not, however, predict Australia's players to be shooting their mouths off in their first Test at home since the Newlands scandal brought a rush of change to the game, including a new captain and coach in Tim Paine and Justin Langer.
As one of seven batsmen in the squad, Head is bracing for a couple days of highly competitive training as the selectors make their final call on the shape of the starting XI for the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar series, but it would be difficult to imagine the South Australia captain being denied a chance to start in the middle order at Adelaide Oval, the ground he has played more of his cricket than anywhere else.
Head set out the sort of attitude he expected from an Australian team shorn of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, replying to questions about whether the team possessed enough "mongrel" by effectively stating that bite would be much more important than bark if the hosts are to emerge victorious. "I think the bowlers when they compete, and they're fierce and aggressive, I think they have that," he said in Adelaide. "I hope they bring that, I know they do it consistently, they bowl aggressively.
"Words are sometimes cheap, it's how they bowl and their actions and if that mongrel means Starcy bowling 150, Cummo hitting a really hard length, same as Hoff, it's bowling aggressive, being aggressive, just the way we play, the way we bat, being aggressive in defence, aggressive on the bad ball, aggressive in the field, attacking the ball hard, it's in our actions not just how it looks on TV sometimes.
"The way you buzz around the field, the way you cut down runs, the way you create pressure, you don't have to say anything to have mongrel. Some players will, some players won't. I try to attack the ball all the time as hard as I can to put pressure on the batters, and when I bat, [I] get into that contest and just compete. That's what cricket's about, enjoying it and playing with a smile, but when you're in the contest, not letting them get on top and winning."
Central to that contest will be India's captain Virat Kohli, whom Head has seen up close as a team-mate in the IPL. "I don't think I'll have to bowl to him, which is good," Head quipped. "Hopefully the boys get him under control. I think facing the three big quicks, I know how much hard work it is. If they can put him under enough pressure, anybody in the world is a human. We know he's good player, I've seen it first hand at Bengaluru, he's an extremely good player, but I think we've got the bowlers to do the job. They're one of the best bowling units in the world."
Head's memories of Adelaide Tests past include sitting at the ground with his family to watch England bat for almost two days in 2006, before being entranced by the way Ricky Ponting's team went on to conjure a win out of nowhere. More recently he was in the stands for Nathan Lyon's last-day heroics to bowl out India in 2014, the emotional first Test played after the death of Phillip Hughes. That dramatic final day came in the second Test after the redeveloped Adelaide Oval unveiled a drop-in pitch, and Head said the curator Damian Hough had evolved a surface which provided a little assistance for everyone.
"In the Shield games it's been really good, bit of a new-ball wicket, batters have got in once the ball's got a bit older, and it's spun. So it's done everything really well," he said. "The last time India were here, Lyono took a lot of wickets on day five and it spun quite a bit. I think it'll be a good wicket all round. With the hot weather, hopefully it's got a bit of pace in it; I know Houghy is trying to get it quicker each time. As the Shield season's gone on, the wicket's become quicker.
"[Pacemen] have been successful but there's been a little bit there, a bit of rough for spin, so with five days, Lyono and spin will come into the game. It'll offer something for everyone. The two Shield games here have shown that if batters get in they can get runs.
"We've seen Shaun [Marsh] make 170 not out here the other day, but [with] the new ball there was a bit on offer. With the wicket, the extra grass, the thatchiness of the grass, it brings spin into play, it's spun from day one in the Shield game, we saw Popey [wrist spinner Lloyd Pope] take a seven-for on day one, so all round, Houghy's done an amazing job. He's made for a wicket for everyone, the perfect combination."
As for the competition provided by the inclusion of Marcus Harris and Peter Handscomb, alongside five of the batsmen who turned out in the UAE against Pakistan, Head predicted plenty of willing contests in the nets, not least when Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins are charging in. "You don't get anything easy; they'll test us out over the next couple of days, which will be good, then you'll walk out into the middle knowing you've prepared well," he said.
"I'll know I'm ready to go. If you can get through these ones, you can get through anyone in the world. So it'll be an exciting week, a challenging week facing them, but a couple of days of training and we'll be ready to go."