Cricket writer, Colin Bateman noted, concerning Emburey's participation in two South African rebel tours that it "cost him six lost years as far as Test cricket was concerned... and, more significantly, probably an extended run as England captain, a job for which he was better suited than some who held the position post-Mike Brearley".
Emburey was a right arm spin bowler and a slightly eccentric lower-order batsman with the style of a grafter. He was more notable as an economical performer than a "demon" spin bowler, but on his day could leave the best batsmen groping outside off-stump. One of his dangerous balls was his arm ball outswinger. Emburey was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1984.