The independent voice of cricket

India v Australia 2023

Fifteen years on from another Nagpur off-spin debut, Todd Murphy is more than another Krejza in the making

Todd Murphy picking up a five-wicket haul on debut against India
by Shashwat Kumar 3 minute read

Shashwat Kumar was in Nagpur as Todd Murphy snapped up a five-for on Test debut, showing off a skill-set that could serve him well for a very long time.

Cast your mind back almost 15 years. At this very venue, Australia, trailing India 1-0 in a four-match series, arrived with an unknown named Jason Krezja in their bag. He took India by surprise, taking eight wickets in his debut Test innings. Krezja then followed it up with a four-wicket haul in the second innings, but proved to be expensive and allowed India to put the game well beyond Australia.

But whenever you mention Australia, off-spinners and Nagpur in the same breath, Krezja is probably still the yardstick used. Thus, as soon as Murphy picked up his fifth, the initial reaction from those watching, apart from to marvel at the debutant’s poise, was question whether he would be able to sustain himself after this memorable performance.


If you watched Murphy bowl, though, that would be the last thought that would cross your mind. Not just because he was in the wickets and outshone Nathan Lyon, but because he displayed maturity, control and guile much beyond his 22 years.

It is quite revealing that Murphy had played less than 10 First-Class games before making his debut and only started bowling off-spin around 2016. Yet, here he was – bowling consistently where he wanted to, attacking the stumps and imparting just enough spin to keep the batters guessing. In the post-match press conference after day 2, he even mentioned that it was a concerted effort to impart more side-spin rather than over-spin, which is opposite to what he usually does in Australia.

Adaptability, thus, is clearly not a problem.

He also restricted the batters well throughout the innings, barely offering them width. There were few freebies on offer from the off-spinner, and he built pressure superbly. Two of his wickets, that of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, came via deliveries that were fired down the leg side. But the fact that both thought that was too good a run-scoring opportunity to pass up, is indicative of how tight Murphy kept things at other junctures.

A day earlier, Ravindra Jadeja had done something similar, and had forced the batters to step out of their comfort zone to keep things ticking along. Murphy’s wickets were spaced out a bit more but the proclivity to keep at it, even when there might have been a temptation to try something different, shows he knows exactly what he is doing and why he is doing it. That is something that will hold him in good stead, irrespective of wherever he plays and whoever he is up against.

It is, hence, remarkable that he did not even practice this craft until about six years ago. Had he continued on his previous path, he might not have been here at all, let alone become the fourth Australian in this particular XI to take a five-for on Test debut. But when he was thrown in at the deep end, he flourished.

This also ties into the beautiful narrative that Australian off-spinners on debut have woven in Nagpur – all they seem to have to do is rock up in the city and let destiny take care of itself. Jokes aside, one game of course does not guarantee how long Murphy’s career will last.

On evidence, though, he seems primed for a longer career than Krezja, who famously played just one more Test for Australia, despite those 12-wickets debut. Murphy has greater control, has the conviction to back his planning, and does not seem overawed by the magnitude of the occasion.

Time will tell if he can scale the heights that Lyon has done throughout his career, or if he can have a fruitful Test career. But for now, let him enjoy and revel in how he outshone his more illustrious partner at the other end, and picked up his first five-wicket haul on the biggest of occasions.

After all, that takes some doing.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99