Murphy quits Zimbabwe
The exodus from Zimbabwe cricket continues unabated with the news that the former national captain Brian Murphy has now left the country. According to Max Ebrahim, Zimbabwe's convener of selectors, Murphy has taken up a post coaching and playing cricket at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
Murphy, 26, is the eighth international player to leave Zimbabwe cricket prematurely during 2003. Guy Whittall called it a day because of injury problems, but the others still had time in the game ahead of them had they chosen to continue playing.
Part of the reason is the current political and economic situation at home, but there are also many who are unhappy, justifiably or otherwise, about their relationship with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. Andy Flower and Murray Goodwin have both spoken out recently to criticise the ZCU for their management of players, and with such an exodus of experienced players the board does need to take a long hard look at why so many are opting out.
Murphy, captain of Zimbabwe briefly in 2001-02 until his tenure was cut short by a chronic finger injury, had a fairytale start to his international career. A legspinner, his path to Test cricket was blocked in the late '90s by two senior leggies in the shapes of Paul Strang and Adam Huckle. But Huckle unexpectedly retired after the 1999 World Cup ,and then Strang suffered a serious hand injury. Zimbabwe suddenly found themselves without a quality spinner of any type.
A former Under-19 captain, Murphy was awaiting his finals at the University of Cape Town, not having played in Zimbabwe for several seasons, when he received a totally unexpected call-up for the tour of West Indies early in 2000, followed by a trip to England. He was never quite able to cement his place in the national side, taking 18 wickets at a cost of over 60 in his 11 Tests, and averaging just over 10 with the bat, although he did prove an obdurate nightwatchman.
When Murphy returned to top cricket in 2002-03 after his hand injury, Heath Streak had been reinstated as captain and Murphy's place in the team had gone to the rapidly improving left-arm spinner Raymond Price. He had a good club season, with his batting improving by leaps and bounds, and the selectors showed he was still in their thoughts when they invited him to captain Zimbabwe A in their tour of Namibia last August.
But Murphy declined, preferring to play for his club side in England where he was earning more money. Now comes his move to Cape Town, which has almost certainly drawn down the curtain on a somewhat unfulfilled first-class career. He has a fine cricket brain, as evidenced by his selections to captain teams over the years, and was clearly approaching his best years as a player. This is another serious loss for Zimbabwe cricket.