Rising young legspinner James Muirhead is the rough diamond of Australia’s Twenty20 World Cup campaign who can sparkle if given a chance, according to Glenn Maxwell.
The 20-year-old Muirhead has played just nine T20 fixtures, and taken four wickets in three internationals, but is highly regarded by players and coaches alike in the Australian hierarchy for his fearless attitude.
And following Australia’s opening loss to Pakistan on Sunday, which puts them on the cusp of a win-or-go-home scenario, the young Victorian could be thrust into Friday’s crucial clash with the West Indies.
Always expected to play second fiddle to 43-year-old left-arm tweaker Brad Hogg during the World Cup, Muirhead could yet be the saviour – whether it be alongside Hogg, or as Australia’s sole specialist spinner.
Hogg, a veteran of 15 T20 and 123 one-day internationals, is a proven campaigner but he endured a difficult evening against Pakistan.
He returned figures of 0-29 from three overs, while also crucially dropping man of the match Umar Akmal on 22.
Australia would’ve watched with interest as the West Indies were bamboozled by India’s attacking legspinner Amit Mishra – the 31-year-old claiming man-of-the-match honours for his 2-18 off four overs in their comfortable victory.
Maxwell has no doubt Muirhead has the ability and confidence to make an impact on the World Cup if called on.
“He’s up for the challenge. He wants the big scalps,” Maxwell said of his Victorian teammate.
“Hopefully he gets a crack and can show how good he is. He’s a very good talent.”
Muirhead was given his international debut over the summer, instantly gaining attention for his big-turning leg breaks.
“He spins the ball miles and he’s got all the tricks as well,” Maxwell added.
“He’s a player to look out for. If he gets a game I’m sure he’ll give a good account of himself.”
A change in Australia’s spin approach could be on the cards, with captain George Bailey admitting he expects it to become a bigger factor as the tournament progressed and the Shere Bangla National Stadium pitches, where Australia will play all their games, deteriorate.
“I think spin will play a part in this tournament, as we’ve said all along – I think it will probably play more of a part as the tournament goes on,” Bailey said.