LONDON — Sam Curran’s exploits with both bat and ball played a pivotal role in England’s series over India recently, but the rising cricket star’s reputation as an allrounder was, however, forged long before he even started playing for the Three Lions.
BY AYAN ACHARYA
He first rocketed into the public consciousness in England, when as a 17-year-old, playing his debut first-class match for Surrey; he became the youngest player to achieve a five-wicket haul in county cricket.
Sam finished with match figures of eight for 120 and showed off his batting skills in a 14-ball 18 during which he hit four boundaries.
The 20-year-old, who last month became the youngest Englishman to earn the man-of-the-match award in a Test, had shown glimpses of his bright future during his early years in Zimbabwe where his all-round brilliance made everyone sit up and take notice.
“His bowling was a pleasure to watch, where his short run up and easy action deceived many batsmen with his burst of speed and swing that he had even at an early age,” recalls Alan Macdonald, sports director at Sam’s alma mater, St. Georges College in Harare.
Sam made his debut for Surrey in June 2015, picking up 234 wickets in 140 matches at a combined economy rate of 5.72 across all three formats.
With the bat, he has scored 14 half-centuries in the English circuit, with 12 of those coming in first-class cricket. He has a fifty each in List A and T20 cricket. His 325 boundaries and 40 sixes further attest his prowess with the bat.
Those close to Sam knew he was destined for success, and the left-arm seamer has gone on to fulfil all the promise of his youthful talent. “He took control of every aspect of the game and was made captain (in college) because of the way he could read the game and almost single-handedly manoeuvre his players around to be in the right position and do the right thing,” Macdonald tells Sportstar.
During his time in Zimbabwe, he was enrolled at St George’s College between 2011-12, “he led the U-15 A team to some amazing results. He opened the batting, showing amazing maturity, seldom giving his wicket away with a rash shot selection.”
Playing the ZimPups tournament, an annual cricket festival for the U-15 and U-16 cricketers in Zimbabwe, Sam scored 840 runs in 10 50-over games for a remarkable average of 84, the highlight of which was a magnificent 274.
He scored another three centuries and two half-centuries in that year including 143 runs in a T20 match.
“Although he was not the highest wicket-taker, he took 18 in the 14 matches the team played that year. He used his bowling attack very cleverly and rotated the quicker bowlers with the spinners very well to achieve these statistics: P 14 W 12 L 1 D 1,” Macdonald points out.
For Sam, cricket runs in the family. He is the son of former Zimbabwe international Kevin Curran. His elder brother Tom plays for Surrey too. “Much of his early success as an incredible all-rounder can be attributed to the support and intense coaching instructions he was given by his late father, Kevin,” Macdonald says.
“Not to forget his two older brothers, Thomas and Benjamin, who were also blessed with such amazing talent and who I am sure all gave a helping hand to pass on their support whenever they were at home or practising with their father wherever they could.”
Tom and Sam, in fact, achieved a rather rare feat against Northamptonshire when they became only the third pair of brothers to take all 10 wickets in an innings.
Mike Arnot, player’s representative and club team-mate of Sam at the Weybridge Cricket Club, says “Sam’s appearances for Weybridge CC were obviously hampered by his school, Surrey and England commitments but two innings really stand out.
“Firstly, in the 2013 season, he and I put on 119 in just over 10 overs in a crucial league fixture against Sutton CC, in which despite being young, he was by far the senior partner in aggression and intent.
“More recently, and now famously at the club, he played against us for Gareth Batty’s testimonial XI last summer. He struck six sixes in an over against our first XI ex-minor counties spinner, in what was a brilliant show of his batting prowess.”
Sam joined Weybridge in 2013, alongside brothers Tom and Ben. Sam and Ben began in the second XI under Arnot’s captaincy and both played a huge part in Weybridge winning the Surrey Championship 2nd XI Premier Division title in 2013.
“Sam was still developing as a bowler but at just 15, he was a class above as a middle-order batsman and his attitude and commitment on and off the field were a pleasure to captain,” Arnot says.
Asked how Sam caught the eye of the Surrey staffers, Arnot notes, “Sam was part of the Surrey set-up immediately on arrival in England and so it seemed inevitable that he would progress into the full Surrey ranks.
“His coaches would have kept tabs on his performances both at school and for Weybridge CC but his displays for the various Surrey age group and academy sides would really have shown his potential to play at a higher level.”
To put it in the words of St. Georges sports director, Macdonald, “Sam is definitely England’s gain and Zimbabwe’s loss.” — Sport Star