England, Player spotlight

Decoding the genius of Sam Curran

Elite batsmen are often presented with the unthinkably daunting prospect of taming some of the most ferocious fast bowlers to have ever graced the globe. These supreme athletes typically tower well beyond the realms of 6 foot, gifting them with the petrifying aura of an indomitable beast. Even the absolute cream of the crop quiver with unadulterated fear in the aftermath of an exponentially rising bouncer that whistles past the batsmen’s head at the meteoric speed of a hurtling train.

However, not all fast bowlers are booned with such natural ability and Sam Curran is a member of this unfortunate group. His timid frame of 5′ 9″ is merely capable of seemingly harmless 80mph left arm dibbly-dobblys that pose no conceivable form of physical threat to the batsman. In comparison to the terrifying 90mph quicks, Curran’s bowling is perceived by batsmen as an unmissable opportunity presented by the cricketing deities to fill their boots with incalculable quantities of runs.

Despite these foolish stereotypes, Sam Curran has claimed his rightful place as the heir-immediate to the infinite dynasty of English test match all rounders. He also proved his previously doubted white ball credentials with a flawless campaign for CSK.

What is it about Sam Curran that, despite the speed and height barriers, has allowed him establish such a renowned reputation in all forms of the game? His witty 3 for 28 in the 1st SA T20I epitomises his rise comprehensively.

New found versatility

When Sam Curran first came onto the scene, his strengths and weaknesses were laid out bare for all to see: he was a rampaging force when faced with a green-tinged pitch and overcast skies due to his god-sent virtue of producing exaggerated swing that challenged both edges of the bat. We saw this vividly in the 2018 India test series as Curran demolished the Indian top order when conditions suited.

However, Sam Curran often lacked the venom on flat pitches which often demanded a “hit the deck hard” strategy. Instead, he tended to float the ball aimlessly, in hope of inevitably elusive movement, only to find it crashing with furious speed to the boundary boards. This indicated an over reliance on the moving ball which made Curran inconsistent in tests, due to the variability in conditions, yet consistently mediocre in white ball cricket because of the white ball’s lack of co-operation for swing bowling.

He recognised something needed to be done or his test chances outside home and his overall white ball opportunities would eventually dwindle.

In order to combat his one-dimensionality, Curran mastered a fresh batch of subtle cutters that allowed him to gain magnificent wicket taking potential on slow and grippy surfaces in all formats. However, he had still retained his priceless ability to swing the ball only used in suitable situations (like with the new ball in a T20). We first witnessed this monumental transformation in the IPL but his performance against South Africa in the 1st T20I symbolised how far he has come in that regard:

Sam Curran’s initial realisation that the pitch would suit his nimble fingered cutters is a testament to his outstanding game awareness but he still had to execute. His bowling spell was littered with frequent changes of pace and intelligent “into the pitch” deliveries that dared the batsman to the long side of the boundary. Curran’s game awareness and newfound versatility was essential to the England victory and will be for many more!

Ben Stokes-esque mentality

While it would be inappropriate to heap pressure upon the young man, it is difficult to not draw parallels with arguably the best all rounder in the world.

Stokes is famed for his renowned ability to create wonders out of nothing and also for his unparalleled nerves of steel when under pressure.

It is obvious to all that Curran possesses both of these much vaunted characteristics in vast amounts: he has developed a reputation for possessing a “golden arm” meaning he is able to claim plenty of vital wickets even with horrible deliveries.

The sole explanation for Curran’s uncanny ability is his lack of pace, previously considered a curse but now a welcome blessing. Batsmen tend to ease off against bowlers of low speed as they misconceive that a medium pacers threat is not worthy of the forensic concentration that they apply for express pace fast bowlers. By doing this, Batsmen are immediately vulnerable to a grave lack of judgement and tend to get dismissed in unattractive ways.

In fact, the manner in which Temba Bavuma was dismissed in the SA T20I (attempted scoop bottom edged to Buttler) was representative of this theory.

However, you could say that Curran’s “golden arm” is a result of his dedication to winning games for England. When he gallops in, his face contorts amusingly as if he is preparing to launch down a 100mph thunderbolt when it is nothing of the like. This reveals his unerring passion and perhaps it is not a coincidence that a man so determined is capable taking wickets when others have lost resilience.

For example, his brilliant slower ball bouncer that flummoxed a Faf Du Plessis who looked set to play a blinding innings.

Finally, Sam Curran has shown glimpses of prowess when put under extreme pressure as he was able to handle the extensive limelight of being CSK’s pivotal overseas all rounder while simultaneously producing the goods. There is a long history of outstanding international stars who simply could not handle the incredible pressure that is part and parcel of being an overseas player in the IPL. The fact that Sam Curran achieved this task with distinction is great news for both England and CSK fans

Dynamic batting

Sam Curran’s batting is an essential component in his all round package as he is undoubtedly an extraordinarily gifted striker of the cricket ball. In test matches, he has played some truly explosive innings in which he counter-attacks opposition in a way reminiscent of Adam Gilchrist at his prime.English all rounders have always tended to be attacking match winners with the bat and Sam Curran is certainly no exception.

However Sam Curran, during the IPL, morphed into an explosive T20 middle-order batsman who was capable of dispatching both pace bowlers and spinners with equal contempt. CSK frequently used him as a flexible floater who could be promoted when the side’s situation was in dire need for some attacking intent.

The role of a middle order batsman in T20 is one of great complexity yet Curran adapted into the job with almost effortless ease. How?

Curran has the modern T20 batting attitude of batting: he looks to be an ardent believer in not wasting too many balls at the crease. This ensures that if he does gets going, it is certain that he will have a positive impact on games due to his ability to score at mind boggling rates. This, coupled with his youthful exuberance, is an incredibly selfless way to play in T20 and it would England’s loss not to utilise his endless batting talents.

Looking more long term, it would be worth while for England to continue developing Curran the batsman. He certainly possesses the aptitude to bat in higher positions in limited overs cricket and this would only add further value to an already match winning cricketer

In all, Sam Curran is a living example to all for maximising every ounce of your potential and talents despite the uncontrollable obstacles that come across your way. If Curran continues to follow this philosophy, he will eventually conquer the cricketing world…

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