James Muirhead has played only two First-Class games till date © Getty Images
James Muirhead has played only two First-Class games till date © Getty Images


Jan 22, 2014


Budding Australian leg-spinner, James Muirhead has been earmarked as a possible candidate for the 2015 Ashes touring party by the national selectors.


Though Australia‘s defence of the urn is 17 months away, Cricket Australia and its network of state talent managers are already identifying players who could feature in the England series if they perform well at domestic level.


Muirhead, 20, has only played two First-Class games, but he is likely to add to that tally with Victoria when the Sheffield Shield resumes in February.


”We rate him very highly. We worked hard to keep him and he will be challenging for a Sheffield Shield spot as of when the competition starts up again,” Victorian chairman of selectors and state talent manager Andrew Lynch said, in an interview to the Sydney Morning Herald.


”We know there is a lot of national interest in him and that is our mantra, to pick players we think can represent Australia.”


Muirhead would have to leapfrog leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed and left-arm orthodox spinner Jon Holland for a regular place in the Bushrangers’ shield team.


Cricket Victoria fought hard to keep Muirhead out of South Australia’s clutches, and the South Australian Cricket Association last year was fined $15,000 for improperly approaching the contracted Victorian. He bolted into Australia’s Twenty20 squad for the three-match series against England after just two games for the Melbourne Stars.


Lynch denied Ahmed was on the outer after drifting from Test and limited-overs contention, and said he was a victim of a schedule that puts those who do not feature prominently for Big Bash League teams into hibernation at the height of summer.


”Fawad hasn’t done much wrong and we haven’t changed our attitude to him,” Lynch said. ”He’s a player we rate highly and he has been terrific for us the last season and a half. He is our equal-leading wicket-taker in the shield. He has been a victim of circumstance.”


At Test level, Nathan Lyon dispelled doubts about his position during the Ashes and joined the select group of Australian off-spinners to have taken 100 wickets. The exceptional performances of the pacemen have negated the need for a second spinner.


In the BBL, Ahmed has played just one game for the Melbourne Renegades, where he plays third fiddle to Muttiah Muralitharan and Aaron O’Brien.


Ahmed admitted he had allowed talk that he was in contention to play the first Ashes Test to affect his bowling, but said he was prepared to be patient to add to his international experience.