Todd Murphy isn’t a household name in the Australian cricketing landscape.
However, his natural talent and rapid development haven’t gone unnoticed by those closest to him, including his captain at St Kilda Cricket Club and former first-class wicketkeeper-batter Adam Crosthwaite.
Playing in two Sheffield Shield matches and seven domestic one-day games doesn’t necessarily scream ‘pick me’ when it comes to national selection. Yet promising Victorian off-spinner Todd Murphy has shown enough glimpses of his potential to catch the eye of the Australian selectors, recently named as a member of the Australia A squad for the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka.
It means that he will spend the best part of a month with the Australian set-up on the subcontinent, joining fellow young spinners Matthew Kuhnemann and Tanveer Sangha in the Australia A squad.
In many respects, Murphy has come from the clouds to earn himself a seat on the plane to Sri Lanka, but to those who have witnessed first-hand his progression over the last few years, it’s been no coincidence.
“It was no shock to me and to be honest it was what Todd and I had been planning for him. It was in the plans, it was what we wanted, just usually in these situations it probably takes longer and a bit of time,” St Kilda premier firsts captain Adam Crosthwaite told The Inner Sanctum.
“I think they’ve [Australian selectors] seen what I’ve seen, what everyone at St Kilda sees and probably Victorian cricket sees, that this kid’s a serious cricketer.”
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Since making his first XI debut for St Kilda in the 2018/19 season, Murphy has gone from strength to strength, earning his first rookie contract with Victoria in 2020. With St Kilda reaching the finals in his first season, an 18-year-old Murphy produced a performance arguably years before his time in an elimination final against the Monash Tigers.
The crafty off-spinner claimed figures of 6-50 off 25.5 overs, including nine maidens, albeit in a losing side. It also marked his second six-wicket haul for the season.
Fast-forward to the 2021/22 Victorian Premier Cricket season and Murphy was the leading wicket-taker for his side, taking 27 wickets at a remarkable average of 13.70 across 12 matches. A testament to his consistency in output, he only went wicketless on one occasion throughout the campaign.
Crosthwaite believes that Murphy’s high IQ and intuitive knowledge of the game have held him in good stead, showcasing similar traits to some of Australia’s best spin bowlers to have come before him.
“I think his greatest strength is the way he thinks about the game. That’s probably one of Nathan Lyon’s greatest strengths and it was definitely one of Warne’s greatest strengths,” he said.
“His consistency is outstanding, he knows what he wants to do, and he can execute it. He can really spin the ball hard, so he does get that bounce and gets it over the top very similar to what Nathan [Lyon] does.”
Drawing eerie similarities to current Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon, Murphy has been earmarked as the next best right-arm finger spinner in the country. From an age and development perspective, Crosthwaite believes that Murphy’s craft is years ahead of Lyon at the same age, having spent time with Lyon as a teammate at South Australia.
“It hasn’t surprised me probably the last three years, but within I guess the greater feed of Australian cricket, it’s really exciting because we don’t have anyone ready to take over from Lyon and he is a carbon-copy if not years ahead of where Nath was at 18.”
“I think this kid’s as good as any [spinner] that I’ve seen in 20 years of first-class cricket.”
Despite limited opportunities thus far for Victoria, Murphy has matured as a cricketer in recent years. Posing a dangerous threat to left-handed batsman by spinning the ball away from the bat, Murphy has also learned to contain opposition right-handers who’ve looked to be aggressive in their approach.
“He’s found a way in one-day cricket and the first-class games that he’s played to really lock these right-handers up as well which is exciting and I think that’s the biggest challenge moving into first-class cricket is how he attacks the right-hander,” Crosthwaite said.
Murphy is of course no stranger to wearing the green and gold, having represented Australia in the Under-19 World Cup in 2020. It was here that he was pivotal to a memorable win over arch-rival England.
With the ball, Murphy was at his economical best, breaking England’s strong opening partnership of 67 to drag his team into the contest. However, it was with the bat that he produced his finest moment. Needing 40 off the last three overs to win the match, Murphy joined teammate Connor Sully at the crease and notched a quickfire 16 off 10 balls to help his country get home in a thriller.
Reflecting on what it’s like to captain Murphy, Crosthwaite explained that the 21-year-old isn’t afraid to shoulder the responsibility in pressure moments.
“I think that’s him as a competitive person. He thinks he’s the one that can change the game and he usually is,” he said.
“He’s definitely got the attitude and the make-up to be a successful spinner at Test level and first-class level. He’s definitely a ‘give me the ball’ type of guy and he can be relied on when thrown the ball.”
A reflection of Murphy’s versatility, his time at St Kilda has seen him be employed at various stages of bowling innings, particularly in white-ball cricket. Known for his tidy bowling through the middle overs, Murphy has also been exposed to bowling in the powerplay in T20 cricket and at the death.
“We’ve been able to put him in many different situations for his development and he’s been able to figure out his game plans in attacking, defending, and holding oppositions,” Crosthwaite said.
However, beyond just a highly skilled spin bowler, Murphy has been described as a great character, one that is much loved by the St Kilda Cricket Club community,
“First and foremost, before a great cricketer, he’s a great guy,” Crosthwaite said.
“He’s a teammate that every person in our club at St Kilda is pushing for and supporting,”
Whilst Murphy has largely flown under the radar in Australian cricket circles, a Sheffield Shield game against Tasmania late in the 2021/22 season proved to be a significant step in the Victorian’s career. In only his second first-class appearance, Murphy took seven wickets for the match, including figures of 4-98 off 29 overs in the first innings and 3-48 off 21 overs in the second. He also contributed a valuable 24 not out with the bat on the final day to help his side secure victory and all but guarantee Victoria’s spot in the final.
However, Crosthwaite says that performances of this calibre have been a regular occurrence at a premier cricket level over the past few seasons.
“I think from our perspective at St Kilda, he does it week in and week out. I think he’s averaged in the teens for the last three years as a spinner playing on the Junction [Junction Oval] which is arguably one of the best batting wickets in the State. He’s found a way.”
Looking ahead to Murphy’s time in Sri Lanka, Crosthwaite is excited about the opportunity for the 21-year-old to continue to hone his craft in foreign subcontinent conditions and observe some quality Sri Lankan spinners in the process. Importantly, however, Murphy’s selection also offers the youngster some validation in terms of his cricketing abilities.
“I think him getting picked just in general probably gives his confidence a massive kick. I know how good he is, and I think he’s a Test cricketer and I think that now being in this Australian group hopefully he can start to see that and sees the pathway forward.”
Australia A will play two one-day games and two first-class matches on the tour of Sri Lanka, with the first 50-over match beginning on June 8.
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