Todd Murphy has bowled his way into Australia’s Test squad as one of four spinners selected for this month’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India. Murphy, who has 29 wickets at 25.20 from seven First-Class matches, said he was a “bit surprised” to find his name alongside Nathan Lyon, Ashton Agar, and Mitchell Swepson.
The last time Australia played two specialist off-spinners was in 1988, when Tim May and Peter Taylor played two Tests together in Pakistan. But Murphy remains optimistic about finding a spot in the Test XI in Nagpur.
Sportstar caught up with the Victorian offie before he took off for India.
You have very limited First-Class experience in your short career for Victoria.. were you expecting an international call-up at all?
It came as a bit of a surprise, to be honest. I’ve been lucky enough that over my First-Class games, I’ve been able to perform well in a few of them, so it was nice that what I’ve been doing had got recognised, and the selectors see something in me.
The weather and conditions in India are hugely different compared to back home. How have you been prepping?
It’s going to be completely different to anything I have been exposed to before, and the conditions at times are going to be really challenging. I trust that the work I have put in over the last 12 months will hold me in good stead while I’m over there, and I’ll be able to adapt to the heat and pitch conditions that I am confronted with!
These days, off-spinners have all kinds of variations up their sleeves. Nathan Lyon and R. Ashwin are great examples. Do you feel the need to bowl more variations on pitches in India?
I think it’s extremely important to find a balance between consistently bowling your stock ball but then also mixing variations in there as well. I feel when the pitch is more spin-friendly, the variations come into the game even more, and the ability to mix between them will be crucial to being successful over there.
How do you reckon playing in different conditions and formats will shape your thinking overall as a bowler?
I don’t want to go too far away from what I know and trust the tactics that I’ve developed over time. However, I think it’s going to be crucial to be open to change during games and even from innings to innings or spell to spell. The best thing for me is whatever I learn on this tour, I know it will improve my skills as a bowler and the way I am able to read the game.
Your Sydney Sixers teammate Steve O’Keefe registered the best figures by a visiting spinner in a Test in India in 2017. Have you had a chance to chat with him regarding the tour?
I’ve been lucky enough to have some good conversations with Sok in the lead-up to the series. I was really interested to hear from him on how he prepared for the tour and little things he picked up while over there that he thought would help me. While there were some beneficial things he had for me, the biggest thing he drilled in was to just trust my skill set and believe that what I do will stand up while I’m over there.
Speaking of teammates, you also have Steve Smith in Sydney Sixers.. what’s it like bowling to such a good reader of spin?
Very challenging! Steve is a world-class player who thinks deeply about the game and is a fast problem-solver while batting. It’s been awesome to have some good conversations with him about how he is looking at combatting what I’m trying to do to him, which was beneficial for me to hear. The more you bowl to the best players, the faster you learn, which is great also.
What is your assessment of conditions spinners are expected to operate in at the Sheffield Shield... Does it seem it’s dominated by pace bowlers in terms of the many pitches produced?
I think in years gone by, it’s favoured fast or swing bowlers, it’s nice to see now that around the country, we were faced with all different conditions and some now which are more spin-friendly. It’s super crucial that spinners in Australia get the opportunity to learn how to bowl on spinning wickets and how to win games for their team. Exposure to the conditions is always going to be important in setting guys up to be able to be successful while playing in the subcontinent.
Growing up, is there any India-Australia Test match that was your favourite?
The two teams have a great history and some unbelievable battles over the years. The one that always sticks in my mind is when Michael Clarke got three wickets in the last couple of overs to win the match at the SCG (2008), and everyone went crazy!
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