Murphy's raw: How unknown offie spun into Aus A squad
A spin guru from the bush and Nathan Lyon have played key roles in the rapid rise of Todd Murphy, the off-spinner with two first-class games to his name who was a shock pick to go to Sri Lanka
29 April 2022, 06:35 PM AEST
Adelaide Oval marks a formative place in the Nathan Lyon groundsman-to-Test-cricketer fairytale, and both that venue and the off-spinner himself might end up becoming an equally special part of the Todd Murphy story.
Despite practicing the craft Lyon has made cool again for the best part of only five years and having just two first-class games under his belt, Murphy was today named as a bolter in an Australia A squad to play four matches in Sri Lanka in June.
Selection chief George Bailey's suggestion today that top-class spinners were in short supply across the country and that the Echuca-born off-spinner was essentially viewed as the most promising (right-arm) finger-spinner behind Lyon marks a rapid rise.
The fact Murphy was in Darwin when selector Tony Dodemaide informed him of his selection on Thursday, having had plans to play a full season for Tracy Village, highlights how out-of-the-blue his call-up was.
His significant potential was recognised (and been subsequently fostered) by Lyon after the Test regular spent an hour with Murphy in the Adelaide Oval nets when the entire Sheffield Shield competition was shifted to that city during cricket’s first COVID-affected summer in 2020.
That had come about after Nic Maddinson, a former NSW teammate of Lyon's before he moved to Victoria, had made the unusual arrangement of a Blues player attending a rival state's training session.
"It was weird COVID times and Nic just mentioned to me, 'Would you be keen for Nath to come down and do some work with you?' and I just jumped at that," Murphy, who was then still yet to debut for Victoria, told cricket.com.au on Friday.
"It goes to show the kind of people that Nath and 'Maddo' are that they were both happy to organise that.
"Nath came down in his own time, outside of Blues training, to work with me for probably an hour or so. At that stage where I was really new to the professional environment, to have someone like that come over off his own bat and do some work with me was really cool.
"I took a lot out of that net session, and from there he's always said that if there's anything I ever needed or any questions I had to always get in touch with him."
One turns, one doesn't! Top day-one bowling from young Vics offie Todd Murphy.#SheffieldShield | @MarshGlobal pic.twitter.com/jrJtFAFq9o— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) March 15, 2022
While Murphy has not been named in Australia's Test squad, there is further symmetry with his mentor's journey given Lyon made his Test debut in Sri Lanka 11 years ago.
At the time, he had only played four first-class games, two more than Murphy's current tally.
"I haven't really sat there and thought about how close I am to playing for Australia," said Murphy, whose bowling style is similar to Lyon in his reliance on over-spin and bounce. "It still does feel like I'm a long way away.
"But I also know, even with this A tour, how quickly things can happen. I was not expecting that to happen – and it is now. I suppose it just gives you that extra drive to keep working harder and harder, because it might not be that far away."
That Adelaide encounter with Lyon was not the first influential net session of the younger spinner's career.
In fact his ascension owes even more to a recommendation in the small Victorian country town of Rochester from renowned spin coach Craig Howard at an under-16 training session with the Northern Rivers; the junior pathways side that covers regional centres of Bendigo and Shepparton as well as the areas along the Murray River – including Moama where Murphy grew up – that separates Victoria and NSW.
Murphy, then a 16-year-old medium-pace bowling allrounder, had it gently suggested to him by Howard, a former first-class leg-spinner who lives in Bendigo and has become one of the country's leading spin mentors, that his off-spinners may have some potential.
"I was always a batter who bowled a bit of medium pace up until I was about 15 or 16," said Murphy.
"I bowled a bit of off-spin in the nets just because I didn't enjoy bowling medium pace at training. It wasn't something that I thought that I'd be able to do.
"I was at a Northern Rivers training and Craig just mentioned that he really liked what he's seen and he thought it was something worth persisting with.
"I didn't really know who he was at all. But from there, we stayed in touch and then a year later, I moved to Sandhurst (Howard's club in Bendigo) and it's all taken off from there."
Within three years of that encounter, Murphy was playing for Australia's Under-19 World Cup team in 2020 before winning a rookie deal with Victoria later that year.
That had also come on the back of strong showings for his Premier Cricket team St Kilda, for whom his father Jamie played in the 1980s and early '90s, winning two premierships including the '91-92 title alongside Shane Warne.
Murphy went into the most recent KFC BBL season without a contract before reuniting with Lyon at the Sydney Sixers following a late call-up, and is remarkably still yet to play a first-class match as Victoria's sole spinner having bided his time behind left-armer Jon Holland.
As it turned out, Victoria's decision to pick Murphy as a second spinner alongside Holland for their Shield game against Tasmania at the Junction Oval in March proved a clincher for his Australia A spot.
"It was only my second Shield game so coming into that I was still quite nervous, didn't really have much confidence in myself," said Murphy, who took seven wickets and hit the winning runs in the win over the Tigers that proved crucial to the Vics' Shield final tilt.
"But to be able to actually make an impact on the game and get top-order (batters) out was awesome for me and my confidence. I took a lot away from that.
"Just knowing that what I do does stack up and if I keep working hard, there is a chance for me to be successful at first-class level."
Qantas Tour of Sri Lanka, 2022
T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner, Matthew Wade
June 7: First T20, Colombo
June 8: Second T20, Colombo
June 11: Third T20, Kandy
ODI squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
June 14: First ODI, Kandy
June 16: Second ODI, Kandy
June 19: Third ODI, Colombo
June 21: Fourth ODI, Colombo
June 24: Fifth ODI, Colombo
Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
June 29 - July 3: First Test, Galle
July 8-12: Second Test, Galle
Australia A fixtures
Squad: Sean Abbott, Scott Boland, Pete Handscomb, Aaron Hardie, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kuhnemann, Nic Maddinson, Todd Murphy, Josh Philippe, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Tanveer Sangha, Mark Steketee
June 8: First one-day game, Colombo
June 10: Second one-day game, Colombo
June 14-17: first-class tour match, Hambantota
June 21-24: first-class tour match, Hambantota