How Sam Curran has lost his mojo
From unhittable to unselectable, his fall from grace has been swift and shocking
RICHARD GIBSON in Antigua
WHAT a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, Sam Curran became the highest-paid cricketer in the history of the game by picking up a £1.85million-a- season deal with Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League. Now references to being expensive are reserved exclusively for his bowling figures.
It is worth noting that Curran’s purchase for a record IPL auction price was not made on a whim. Six franchises battled it out for a player who had proved pivotal to England securing a second Twenty20 title and double world champion status only weeks earlier. Having been named player of the tournament in Australia, chiefly for his effectiveness with the ball, he was a man in demand.
In terms of pure statistics, it has been a remarkable regression from a player whose 13 World Cup wickets came at 11.38 runs apiece. Emerging as a canny death bowler, his economy rate was as low as 6.52. In true match-winner style, he saved his best until last, signing off with the performance to top the lot — a return of three for 12 totally befuddling Pakistan in the final.
Unhittable at one World Cup; unselectable at the next. Curran arrived here in the Caribbean having been placed into cold storage in India after just three matches of the disasterclass of England’s 50- over title defence, on the back of leaking 140 runs in 17.2 overs, leaving rival David Willey with a monopoly on the left-armer’s place within the attack — despite not being deemed worthy of a central contract.
That things got worse at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Sunday night, when the 25-year-old returned an analysis of 9.5-0-98-0 — the most costly return by an Englishman in more than half a century of one-day internationals.
It will be a grave concern for the beleaguered captain- coach duo of Jos Buttler and Matthew Mott.
Curran’s recent performances have plunged him into the top six — or bottom half-dozen, depending how you look at it — for the worst economy rates in ODI history.
Leaking runs would be offset if he were a prolific wicket-taker. He is not. He averages one an appearance — hardly a justification for him to take the new ball. So how has a player capable of such parsimony in the batter-friendly conditions of Australia fallen so far from grace?
The answer may simply come down to the two Cs: chutzpah and circumstance. At 5ft 9in, with a slight frame and a top speed of 85mph, Curran hardly presented the attributes of a successful seam bowler, but an ultra- competitive spirit and some clever slight of hand saw him prevail in duel after duel at the end of innings down under.
By trade, death bowlers tend to be armed with arrowing yorkers and knock- yourblock-off bouncers delivered by long levers from a skyscraping height. But the Surrey man deconstructed the stereotype with poker- face trickery and sheer audacity, playing on opponents’ egos with slower ball bumpers that exploited the ground dimensions — Australia’s boundaries tend to be long square of the wicket and take some clearing, particularly when pace on the ball is reduced. Fuelled by early success, he also began nailing a blockhole length. His accuracy during that tournament was extraordinary. Delivery after delivery, the ball appeared to be on a string.
Fast forward to late afternoon two days ago when, having been starved of game-time for two months, he was parachuted into a skirmish with one of the world’s best white-ball players, Shai Hope, and a hulk of a hitter in Romario Shepherd.
Not to mention a stiff crosswind that allowed Hope to target the arc between long-on and deep midwicket as the game came down to the wire.
This time, without the same acreage of outfield to work with and the breeze negating change-ups in pace and the angle of attack across the righthanders, Curran lost the showdown.
Neither is the decline restricted to the international game. At last year’s IPL, he took just 10 wickets in 14 appearances and went at 10 an over.
Curran is a clever cricketer. Few have made more of their talent by such an age, but as he moves into the ranks of senior player within this England set-up, he needs to rediscover the belief that won him a life- changing bounty. On current evidence, rediscovering his inner confidence will not come easily.
dmg media (UK)