Australia news February 5, 2014

Muirhead signs four-year deal with Victoria

Victoria have secured the promising young legspinner James Muirhead for the next four seasons after he signed a long-term deal to stay in his home state. Muirhead, 20, was a left-field selection for Australia's recent Twenty20 series against England but despite his lack of experience he bowled well in all three games, showing impressive control and gaining significant turn.

He made his first-class debut for Victoria last summer but has not played a Sheffield Shield match this season, although he is expected to be given an extended run in the four-day side when the Shield restarts next week. His emergence as an international bowler will leave Fawad Ahmed with an uncertain immediate future less than a year after the Australian selectors were considering him for an Ashes campaign.

Ahmed has played five Shield games this season for 14 wickets at 34.07 and he appears to have drifted out of international contention in all formats. The left-armer Jon Holland has also played Shield cricket for Victoria this year and was part of the Australia A side that took on England in Hobart in the lead-up to the Ashes series, but he too may find himself struggling for a place in the side if Muirhead is picked.

Muirhead's success in the T20s against England will make him a strong chance for selection for the World T20 in Bangladesh, where spin is expected to play a key role, and Victoria were understandably keen to lock him into a long-term contract given his age and potential.

Last year, South Australia were fined $15,000 for breaching Cricket Australia's rules on player movements after they were found to have held talks with Muirhead, then on a rookie contract with the Bushrangers, without informing Cricket Victoria. The interest from interstate may well have increased after this summer but Muirhead, who was born and raised in Melbourne, was keen to stay in Victoria.

"I feel like Victoria is the best environment for me to develop my cricket," Muirhead said. "I was born in Melbourne, I live in Melbourne and now I can just focus on playing my cricket in Melbourne. We've got a great set-up, with the best coaches ... so I'm very happy."

The Victoria coach Greg Shipperd said Muirhead remained a work in progress but the state's coaches were looking forward to helping him develop his bowling and understanding of the game over the next four seasons.

"We seem to be a bit of a factory of spinners at the moment," Shipperd said. "So to have secured one of Australia's most promising legspinners - someone who has already shown in the heat of international competition that he's got the nerve and an exciting skill set - to have him commit to Victoria is a really positive move for our squad."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Troy on February 6, 2014, 10:13 GMT

    @ dunger.bob - there are two territories we could include. But more likely would be two more teams from NSW.

  • Bryn on February 6, 2014, 5:52 GMT

    dunger.bob-- couldn't agree more look at all the talent that doesn't get to play consistent first class cricket

  • Bren on February 5, 2014, 22:35 GMT

    @PrasPunter - the other similarity is that they will probably wait until he is 24 to debut him internationally too.

  • Luke on February 5, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    Interesting that CA rushed Ahmed into calculations, would seem his career is over before it has really began with Victoria. Remember Berry went very hard after Muirhead last season (cost SA a few $$$), good to see the Vics giving him the chance…finally.

  • rob on February 5, 2014, 9:43 GMT

    Sometimes I wish we had two more states. I think there's enough fringe talent around to fill two teams. The problem is they'd probably need two seasons to play each other once if they keep the BBL going this long every time.

  • Richard on February 5, 2014, 8:36 GMT

    Like what I've seen from him but let's not rush him. Another two or three seasons in the Shield should give us a better idea of what we have on our hands.

  • Heath on February 5, 2014, 6:16 GMT

    I was impressed with him during the big bash. Selectors keep a good eye on this bloke please.

  • David on February 5, 2014, 6:06 GMT

    Plenty of competition for spinners spot around the Shield sides now: NSW have O'Keefe and Lyon, QLD have Boyce and Hauritz, SA have Botha and Zampa, TAS has Doherty and Rose, VIC has the 3 from the article (Holland, Ahmed, Muirhead), WA has Agar and Beer.

  • Prasanna on February 5, 2014, 5:59 GMT

    Victoria.... Leg Spinner... connect the Dots !!! Blonde hair is missing though !!

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