The recently-concluded Border-Gavaskar Trophy between India and Australia was dominated by spinners with Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Nathan Lyon emerging as the top three wicket-takers of the series. Ashwin was at the top of the list with 25 wickets, followed by Jadeja with 22 as the two India spinners were named the joint Player of the Series. The experienced Nathan Lyon, also with 22 wickets, finished third on the list. Lyon took two 5-wicket-hauls – including a best of 8/64 – and a match-haul of 11/99, the best by any bowler across the four Tests.
However, a surprise entry at No. 4 was Todd Murphy. Making his Australia debut in the series opener at Nagpur, Murphy finished with 14 wickets at times taking the honours over his senior pro. So good was Murphy that his Indian counterpart Ashwin has rated him higher than the 2013-version of Lyon on his maiden tour of India.
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“Nathan Lyon did pick up 20 wickets in this series. However, the pressure was built by other spinners too. Todd Murphy had a sensational debut series. You might wonder what is there to talk about Todd Murphy. This is his first tour to India. I remember many spinners’ first tour to India,” Ashwin said on his YouTube channel.
“Lyon came here first in 2013. He went to Sri Lanka before that. Todd Murphy came here 10 to 50 times better than how Nathan Lyon came here on his first Test tour,” Ashwin said. “I am not saying that he is a better bowler in terms of quality, skill, or performance. I am talking about his capacity and composure to be able to bowl around the stumps and over the stumps.”
A decade ago, when Lyon played his first Test series in India, he ended the series with 15 wickets in three Test, including a seven-wicket-haul. And this time around, Murphy did the same, picking 7/124 himself. He constantly troubled the star-studded Indian batting line-up dismissing Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara in Nagpur and ended the series with 3/113 and having scored a crucial 43.
“In the Ahmedabad Test, he [Murphy] bowled most of his overs from over the stumps. Until then, he was bowling around the stumps. But from both around and over, he looked equally comfortable. He was able to attack the stumps while bowling from around the wicket as well as over the wicket,” Ashwin said.
“Lyon’s strongest feature is that he uses Mitchell Starc’s footmark really well. He bowls the sixth-stump and seventh-stump line really well. That has been his bread and butter. That’s how he has built his ten-year career. Because in a country like Australia, there won’t be much happening for the spinners from the centre of the surface. He has to make things happen from the foot holes only. His bowling, his pace, his trajectory and his body position are all attuned to that.”
The India great then highlighted what made Murphy different to Lyon and even Matthew Kuhnemann for that matter. The left-arm spinner Kuhnemann enjoyed a wonderful outing in Indore, claiming 5/16 which shot India out for 109 in the first innings, but despite the wonderful efforts of Lyon and the 20-year-old left armer, it was Murphy who Ashwin couldn’t stop talking about.
“Whereas Todd Murphy, being the current-generation spinner that he is, is attacking the stumps from over the stumps. He is also bowling from wide of the stumps. He is going from around the wicket and attacking the stumps. And he is also taking the odd ball away. He is not only bowling the fast back-of-the-length delivery but also has an odd slower one. That flight is definitely catching the batter by surprise. It’s not that easy to go on the back foot and play him. So a lot of credit to Todd Murphy,” pointed out Ashwin.