ENGLAND TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND, 2019
“I think if I do get the chance, it is about nailing down my spot in the side and stop being the one that is vulnerable.” © Getty
Sam Curran, who has had a ‘stop-start’ career so far, believes he needs to ‘stop being the one who is vulnerable.’ Despite scoring at an average of over 30 in 11 Tests, and picking 21 wickets at 29, he has been dropped four times in less than a year since he made his debut, a summer in which he was even named the Player of the series during England’s home series against India.
The left-arm pacer has been in the reckoning at all times since his debut but has been overlooked for his lack of pace, which had proved to be his undoing in the away series against West Indies.
Even in the Ashes, he was overlooked for most parts, even as his angle as a left-armer was being viewed as one possible weapon against an in-form Steve Smith. Curran admitted that it was frustrating to be overlooked but added, “the team was in a good place going into the Ashes. I was in all the squads, so that was a confidence booster. At the same time you’d love to be playing, and as the series went on you’re itching to get out on the field.”
With James Anderson out due to a calf injury, the shoot-out is between Chris Woakes and Curran, with Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes clearly settled in their spots. Swing is both their favoured suits, as also their ability to bat in the lower order. “I think anyone looking at the balance of the side can see that is pretty obvious,” Curran said. “I think if I do get the chance, it is about nailing down my spot in the side and stop being the one that is vulnerable.
“That is my responsibility and whoever gets the spot, if it is me, has to take the opportunity by getting runs and taking wickets and contributing to the team. If I do get the nod, hopefully I can go well and contribute with both bat and ball.
“As an allrounder I look up to someone like Stokesy and the way he contributes with the bat up the order and he takes wickets when he bowls and that is what I aspire to do. As long as I’m helping to win games for the team then I’m happy.”
And yet again, it is his angle as a left-armer that strengthens his case for a place ahead of Woakes, who didn’t quite fire in the Ashes. He will be looking to sharpen the delivery that comes back into the right-hander, to add variety to the attack. “It’s not necessarily new to me, I do do it quite a bit in county cricket but probably more overseas where the ball doesn’t swing as much. Trying to get the batsmen to play a lot more coming by round the wicket, it is just about finding different ways.”
Even as he is still learning to master his art with the Kookaburra, he believes the practice so far has helped him improve. “It is a new thing for me to bowl with a red ball in New Zealand so I’m still learning, but I thought it came out better than it did in the first warm-up game so I’m feeling pretty confident going into next week.”
He has been around in New Zealand for almost a month now, and yet, he is yet to fully get used to the potency – or the lack of it – of the Kookaburra ball. It’s been a really long time since England played with the red Kookaburra, and even in the practice game against New Zealand A, where a lot of wickets didn’t fall, there wasn’t much in terms of positive signs for the English bowlers. Curran got a chance to bowl 37 overs, in which he bagged four wickets, but believes there is still hope for swing bowlers in New Zealand, especially when it gets cloudy.
“Yeah, it was nice to get out there with a red ball in a first-class game with a bit more on it,” Curran said. “It was nice for the bowling group to be put under pressure against some of their good New Zealand batters and I thought they played well.
“I think any bowler who bowls with a Kookaburra is going to say they prefer the Dukes but you’ve got to learn somehow,” he added. “If you look at the scores in New Zealand domestic cricket there are a lot of hundreds scored but you never know, in cloudy conditions the scores could get lower.
“We can’t predict what the wicket is going to be like next week until we get up to the Mount and we’ll come up with plans. It is a great learning curve for me, but I’ve made some strides in this game and come up with a few different options so I’m pretty confident.”