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Muirhead signs four-year deal with Victoria

Brydon Coverdale

February 5, 2014

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James Muirhead impressed in his second international appearance, Australia v England, 2nd T20, Melbourne, January 31, 2014
James Muirhead impressed in his first international series © Getty Images
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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

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Posted by Dangertroy 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.

Posted by jonesy2 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

Posted by bren19 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.

Posted by CricketPervert 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.

Posted by dunger.bob 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.

Posted by Biggus 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.

Posted by heathrf1974 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.

Posted by sifter132 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.

Posted by PrasPunter on (February 5, 2014, 5:59 GMT)

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

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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