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News Analysis

Murphy rewarded for answering the Lyon of succession question

Even though he may not be able to play a lot of Tests in the near future, he has been given a central contract by Cricket Australia

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
07-Apr-2023
Todd Murphy had an excellent tour of India, picking up 14 wickets in six innings, including a seven-for on debut  •  Getty Images

Todd Murphy had an excellent tour of India, picking up 14 wickets in six innings, including a seven-for on debut  •  Getty Images

A mark of Todd Murphy's rapid rise in Australian cricket is that he has earned a central contract for a 12-month period where there is every chance he does not play a Test.
After his impressive debut series in India, where he started with a seven-wicket haul in Nagpur, Murphy was one of the new names on this year's list. Partly he may have benefited from the additional four deals that could be handed out under the new MoU, but it was also acknowledgment for answering one of the questions that has started to lurk over the Australia men's Test team in the last few years: if not Nathan Lyon, then who?
Lyon is unlikely to be going anywhere soon. He is bowling as well as ever after his own outstanding series in India. He will likely reach 500 Test wickets during the Ashes. But at 35 he won't go on forever and until recently it wasn't clear who his natural successor was.
It's Todd Murphy. They worked beautifully together in India, but their next chance to do that again, if Lyon is still going in early 2025, appears to be the two Tests in Sri Lanka unless the SCG calls for spin twins over the next couple of seasons.
That's why it could be a while until Murphy adds to his four caps, barring injury to Lyon - something he has been remarkably able to avoid throughout his career, putting together 97 consecutive Test appearances.
Under the period covered by this current round of contracts, Australia have six Tests in England (the WTC final and five Ashes encounters) then a home summer featuring Pakistan and West Indies followed by two Tests in New Zealand. It remains likely, though, that Murphy will be part of the Ashes squad as Lyon's understudy.
"Pretty excited by Todd," national selector George Bailey said. "Thrilled to have him on this list but thrilled with his growth and performances over the last 12 months, both domestically then when he got his opportunity in India.
"We think he has a really bright future. Historically if you look at the team we've picked in England in the past, and in Australia and New Zealand, it is likely that [in] the vast majority if not all those Tests we'll play just one spinner. We certainly like the way Todd's progressing."
Murphy's gain comes with Mitchell Swepson's loss. A year ago Swepson was viewed as a key part of Australia's bowling attack on a trio of subcontinent tours to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. He ended up playing four of those Tests - taking 10 wickets at 45.80 - and was unused in India.
The schedule has not always been kind to Swepson. His outing for Australia A against New Zealand A in Lincoln this week was his first bowl in first-class cricket since early December. For him, too, that Sri Lanka tour may be his best chance of another outing.
"Last year Swep was contracted with a view that there was subcontinent tours coming up," Bailey said. "It was likely that we were going to play two spinners in a lot of those. The emergence and improvement of Murph was tough on Swep and also the fact we do have the two white-ball World Cups coming up, so trying to squeeze four spinners on the contract list [with Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar].
"The challenge for Swep, and it's not unique to Swep, it's a challenge for everyone who has just missed out, is to go and dominate. Looking ahead to the next 12 months it is probably unlikely that there will be many Tests where we'll play two spinners. So the challenge for Swep is to put the performances on the board where he can challenge to be the No. 1 spinner."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo